Friends, Holy Week is coming.
Palm Sunday will be here in just a few short days and I am not ready for it. I’m not ready for Holy Week as a priest, as a parent, or as an individual person trying to follow Christ. And yet, it’s coming. Each day of March brought a deluge of digital formation and liturgical resources into my inbox and social media feeds. Typically I find this sort of creativity inspirational, but it instead reminded of how overwhelmed and underprepared I am for this holy time.
So before I continue, I want to say, that no matter how you observe Holy Week this year, the stone will roll away and Jesus will rise. It’s okay if you don’t cut greenery from your yard on Sunday and wave it around in your living room while watching a live streamed donkey walk down a cobblestone road in Jerusalem. It’s okay if you don’t wash your toddler’s feet on Maundy Thursday or keep watch by a home altar later that night. It’s okay if you can’t find a quiet ten minutes to pray the solemn collects on Good Friday because your your house is anything but quiet right now. It’s okay.
No matter how we engage Holy Week, Easter will come. If this post is making your neck itch and your heart skip a beat or two, then close it. It’s fine, go ahead.
If you are still reading, know that there will be no shaming in the sentences below. What follows is not what you “should be doing” during Holy Week. Instead, I’m offering a few carefully curated resources that you may choose to use in your household. There is enough grief, confusion, and anxiety in our lives already. There is no “should be doing” anything, aside from what you are doing right now. God is here with us. And if we are up for it, God invites us to join Jesus in his final journey through Jerusalem.
Emily Given, Erika Bower, and Michael Smith of St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Whitemarsh, PA created this idea list of activities for each day of Holy Week and all you need to observe an At Home Easter Vigil. It’s practical, doable, and theologically sound.
I also commend this Holy Week at Home packet. Each day includes a prayer, worship options, a way to bless others, and an action to do following the service. I’m really grateful for a resource that is print ready for our family to use at home.
The above resources are for all of Holy Week, but I also want to drop in a couple of options for individual days. Some of us will pick up blessed palms from a basket sitting outside our church doors and others live in areas where palm trees grow. For those of us who don’t fall into either category, I lift up the rubric for the Liturgy of the Palms in the Book of Common Prayer which states, “the branches of palm or of other trees or shrubs to be carried in the procession may be distributed to the people.” So go ahead, clip any branch or bush from your front yard or print and color this free palm frond coloring page from Illustrated Ministry. Wave them while walking around your home and shouting Hosanna!
For Maundy Thursday, I commend to you Remembering Maundy Thursday at Home adapted by Rachel Thomas and Stacey Kohl. Households are invited to thoughtfully prepare, eat, and conclude a meal together on Thursday in a way that honors Jesus’ last supper with his friends.
Once our meal is over and feet have been washed, our family plans to strip the kitchen table and scrub it. Right now this table is serving as my workspace, our children’s school desk, as well as the location of all three family meals each day. Even when it’s not actively in use, the table shows signs of all these responsibilities — a mason jar full of sharpened pencils, wadded up napkins, water bottles, notebooks. The table is working overtime and stripping it of signs of life will be as close to stripping a church altar as we can get at home. The challenge will be leaving it barren until Easter morning, but if we do, I know it will offer us the reminder of the tomb that we need.
There are many Stations of the Cross liturgies available online. Trinity Episcopal Church in Tusla, OK created this virtual Stations of the Cross which would work wonderfully for children of all ages. Each station includes a printable coloring sheet, a description of what’s happening, and a simple action to perform. Also available is an audio version of Stations of the Cross by St. John’s Cathedral in Denver, CO, complete with images, prayers, and a brief audio recording.
The first PDF shared in this post includes an At Home Easter Vigil. It really is a beautiful resource and I hope to adapt it for our household next weekend. It’s an ideal length for young children with only three readings selected. The authors even include “I wonder” questions for each story, that will feel familiar to children who are missing their Godly Play formation classes.
And then, Easter! It still feels impossible that Easter is coming, but that’s the power of Christ. Even in times such as these, Jesus Christ will be risen on Easter day. We will break our Lenten fasts, feast on chocolate and shout Al–lu– as loudly as possible. We will thank God for the gift of Jesus.
Will you observe Holy Week at home?