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  • SJSP Pastoral Staff

Home for Holy Week: some reflections from Anne

This Holy Week presents a unique opportunity for families to mark the remembrance of the days leading up to Jesus’ death and resurrection.

At a time when we would normally be coming together many times as a community, the starkness of this year’s isolation has given me pause to reflect. I have been recalling Holy Weeks gone by: early memories of kneeling beside my mother and the sound of her singing “My song is love unknown”; our parish priest bending to kiss the feet of his parishioners after washing them; getting the giggles as a teenager as my friend looked up and thought that the priest had fallen over and nobody in the church had noticed, as he lay prostrate on Good Friday; noticing the beautiful humility as people of every age came forward to venerate the cross; my excitement at the vigil holy fire and the beautiful candlelight in the church. The sounds, smells, sights, are deep sacramental signs of God with us and the memory of them lingers on within us.

Last year we celebrated our first Collaborative triduum and likewise I have many memories of that precious time we spent together: the beautiful sound of the combined parish choirs on Holy Thursday; the graceful procession with candles of the altar servers at the end of the Holy Thursday Mass; worrying all day Holy Saturday if we could have a fire in the drizzle, and then forgetting to bring the paschal candle out to the fire; the faces of parishioners lit up by their individual candles at the vigil and of the crowds of Easter Sunday morning. All these memories, and there are so many more - all the holiness, prayer, sorrow, laughter, the things that went right and the things that didn’t - all these sacramental signs are about community and the joy of being together in the name of the one who loves us more than we can begin to imagine, and who gave everything that we might be together forever.

This Holy Week feels like we have been stripped of all of that we hold dear about celebrating together and I wonder what we are to learn and how we are to be.

Since this period of social distancing began, I have noticed changes in the way we treasure each other. We are being forced into learning how to be together in new ways, both in our families and as a community and this is bringing a new depth to many relationships in our lives. Similarly, many people have shared with me that they have had an opportunity to develop a deeper relationship with the Lord through prayer.

It occurs to me that there is an opportunity to celebrate a Holy Week this year with a lens of smallness rather than bigness: the celebration of a deeply personal reflection on the mysteries at the heart of our Faith.

Instead of a large communal gathering, couples or individuals can decide to kneel and pray together or alone over these days. We can talk to one another more intimately about our faith; we can find other ways to live the sacramental signs of the triduum. We can express our love for each other, our humility, our hope and our joy.

For young families we can find ways to enter into the paschal mysteries in a new way this week. We can make a little altar at home where we kneel to pray; we can wash each other’s feet on Holy Thursday; we can gather sticks and make a cross on Good Friday; we can fast from screens for 3 hours; we can strip our tables bare from Friday until Easter Sunday morning, when we rejoice together as a family.

For families with older children we can make a place in our homes which is dedicated to prayer and reflection; we can wash each other’s feet if we dare, and if not, we can find a way to serve each other in humility; we can just decide to be extra nice to each other from Thursday to Sunday ! We can pray.

What an opportunity to make memories of this Easter which will be treasured. What a great way to ensure that when we come together again as a community to celebrate this Season of the Church’s year, all of us will have a deeper personal connection to the beauty and truth of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Our Savior.

I pray for a truly holy, Holy Week for you all.

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