Saturday, 04 April 2020 14:37

Holy Week at Home Living the Easter Triduum as a Family

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For many years now, our family has attended a Holy Week retreat led by priests and sisters of an order near and dear to our hearts. It has become the highlight of our year, not just because of the opportunity to get together with other Catholic families, but because of the powerful way it enables us to truly live the Triduum. 

But our family, and all families throughout the world, are being asked to live Holy Week very differently this year. I would like to encourage you to immerse yourselves into the sacredness of this time and perhaps experience your own family retreat in your home. This is a time that our Lord asks us to accompany Him on His journey to Calvary, stay with Him during His Passion and Crucifixion, and experience the immense joy of His Resurrection on Easter. Our Faith offers us beautiful liturgies that help us along this journey, and even if we can only view these online from our living rooms, Our Lord is ready to pour His graces upon all those who are willing to accompany Him.

The Triduum is three days — from the evening of Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday. It is like one, continuous liturgy, beginning with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, continuing with Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion and Veneration of the Cross, then ending with the joyous Mass of the Resurrection of the Lord. It is “the culmination of the entire liturgical year” (General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar, #18).

This year, perhaps even more so than ever, we have an opportunity to truly live the Triduum and teach our children to as well. Here are some suggestions for each of the three days that you might consider trying with your family.

Holy Thursday

This is “the night He was betrayed,” as we hear at every Mass. Much occurs on this momentous day, including the washing of the Apostles feet, the first Mass, and Our Lord’s Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. It is a lot to soak in and understand, so it is important to prepare ourselves by reading the Gospel accounts, such as Matthew 26:17-75, before Mass and talking with our children about what is happening. We can ask them to imagine themselves right there with Our Lord, every step of the way.

At the retreat we attend, we are encouraged to “stay awake” with Our Lord, as He asked His Apostles to — but they instead fell asleep. We each sign up for an hour of Adoration during the night, and often the teens challenge themselves to take the very early morning hours. In the stillness of the church, we have an opportunity to sit with Jesus, comfort Him, and love Him. Often, it is in this silence that Our Lord speaks to us if we listen. If your church is still open to pray, and it is prudent to do so, take your older children to the church for an hour of Adoration. This is probably the single most effective way of truly living this sacred time — just be with Him. If going to the church isn’t possible, consider waking up during the night and sit in silence in front of a crucifix in your home. Ask your children to help you console Jesus.

Good Friday

This is the most solemn day of the year, the day our Lord and Savior was mocked, tortured, and died for us. It is the day He forgave those who crucified him, and entrusted the Virgin Mary to his beloved disciple and to all of us. 

It is a day of fast and abstinence. Many people at the retreat we attend choose to fast on only bread and water throughout the whole day. Although not necessary, it can be another way to enter more deeply into this day. 

Before the Good Friday liturgy, it can be beneficial for teens and adults to watch the film, The Passion. Although difficult to watch, it can be a very powerful experience. As we visualize the cruelty of the way Our Lord was treated, we can place ourselves there with Him. Praying the Stations of the Cross is also a way to “walk” with Our Lord on this day.

Every year when we come to the church for the Passion of the Lord’s Supper, the stripped altar, the veiled statues and images, and the door left open to an empty tabernacle all have a profound effect. This year, the barrenness will be felt in our hearts as well, as many throughout the world have not been able to receive Our Lord in the Eucharist for some time. One of the most moving moments for me during this liturgy, and for my children as well, is the opportunity to venerate the Cross. If you are not able to at your church, take the time with your family, to venerate the Cross in your home. Join with Our Lord in His suffering, bringing all of your sufferings to the foot of the Cross. How beautiful that He is asking us to do this in such a profound way this year. 

Holy Saturday

This is a day the whole Church quietly waits at the Lord’s tomb, and a time to keep vigil with Our Blessed Mother. Even from the tomb, He reveals Himself to us in this silence. The disciples did not understand this silence — they lost hope — but Mary never did.

On this day in particular, the Church (according to Paschale Solemnitatis) encourages the faithful to pray the Office of Readings and Morning Prayer, easily available online.

Another way to help us keep this atmosphere of prayer and recollection is to listen to podcasts of Lenten homilies and meditations while we are going about our preparations for Easter. Some of those preparations might include making a special meal for later and setting a beautiful table with our finest place settings and linens. We can bring out our best dress or suit, and do the same for the children, taking the opportunity to explain to our children that when we dress nicely for Mass, it is to show Jesus our love and reverence for Him. We have walked alongside Him during these 40 days of Lent, and now we will celebrate — in the midst of the difficult situation the world is in — His glorious Resurrection.

Easter Vigil

The Easter Vigil Mass is the summit of the entire liturgical year. My children grew up attending this beautiful liturgy, even if they slept through most of it when they were young.  But the ones who could stay awake experienced for themselves the wonder of processing with their fellow Christians into a darkened church with the illumination from their own candle, lit from the Paschal candle, which was lit from the fire outside. Even from a young age, they knew there was something very special about this moment.

The great day is finally here, and this is a time for celebration and joy! Dress in your Easter best, take photos with your family, decorate your home altar with candles and flowers (or cuttings from pretty bushes in your yard) and — even if from your computer or television — come together to participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with Christian joy. As St. John Paul II beautifully said, “Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.”

And after the Mass… let the celebration begin! Break out the Easter cake and chocolates, and let us celebrate with our family this momentous occasion of Our Lord’s Resurrection, believing in our hearts that Jesus knows all things, He can do all things, and that He loves us. 

Cheryl HernandezCheryl Hernández and her husband of more than 30 years, Kevin, live in Florida. They have nine children, including a daughter who is a Servant Sister. They are lay members of the Home of the Mother.