As I’ve been in the midst of preparing for Holy Week, my mind has been lingering on this description from Gertrud Mueller Nelson:
The sacred mysteries of the coming week, the very apex of the Church year, are brought into our homes. Actually, we move gently back and forth from the sacred rites at church to folk and family traditions and then back again to the richness of the Church. The tangible signs of our inner transformations are found in materia in the ordinary and daily things around us, renewed and charged with meaning. . . Bread and meats, kiss and cross, oil and water, water and fire, passion and praise, candles and eggs and dress and chants, primal laments and bursts of thanks, fasting and feasting, silence and sounds, all these mix and point up the poetry of paradoxes which the sacred mysteries celebrate. The simple objects are within our reach at home. The simple gestures done at church and then at home with reverence and consciousness can bring the mysteries straight to hearth and table and chair and bed.”
We’ll be participating a lot in the “gentle back and forth” since our church has a service everyday and I play piano for the majority of the services. So, the main challenge in preparing for Holy Week is to make the rest of life simple enough that the “gentle back and forth” doesn’t become a chaotic, stressful back and forth. With that in mind, here are my plans for a simple Holy Week which may, by God’s grace, “bring the mysteries straight to hearth and table and chair and bed.”
Family Prayer Throughout the Week
As with Lent, we’ll be praying from this family prayer booklet — it’s essentially family prayer from the 1928 Prayer Book. The suggested readings follow the events of each day of Holy Week. I’m also going to print out the images above. I formatted an image a day with the collect for the day and we will look at the painting during our family prayer time. I’ll then display it on our “little oratory” throughout the day.
Holy Week Music
At home and at church, we will be singing our favorite Holy Week hymns. We may listen our way through Genie of Barefoot Abbey’s Holy Week Playlist. And, I will keep my eyes open to see what Ken Myers (of Mars Hill Audio) will write about for Holy Week on Cantica Sacra. In addition to Bach’s Passion Cantatas, I’ll also be listening to:
- Stile Antico’s Passion and Resurrection: Music Inspired by Holy Week — beautiful recordings of Renaissance polyphony, focusing in on two versions of the medieval carol “Woefully Arrayed” (Find it here on Amazon)
- Biber’s Rosary Sonatas (you can listen to it here through Amazon music)
- I’ll keep listening to the Lent at Ephesus from the Benedictines of Mary
Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of Holy Week
I’ve been thankful for the Holy Week sections in some of my favorite liturgical living books — Around the Year with the von Trapp Family, To Dance with God by Gertrud Mueller Nelson, and Our Children’s Year of Grace by Therese Mueller (this is a little booklet by Gertrud Mueller Nelson’s mother!) And, I was delighted to remember the tradition of spring cleaning at the beginning of Holy Week: Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. I’ve always considered spring cleaning to be a practice for Lent, but I’ve not managed it this year. So, I’m glad I haven’t lost my chance. I think that a reasonable amount of spring cleaning on these days will help me to feel ordered externally and internally, that I can set aside the rest of the week. As Maria von Trapp says,
“By Wednesday night, the house looks spick and span. . . From now until the Tuesday after Easter, no unnecessary work will be done on our place. These days are set aside for our Lord.”
What a pragmatic tradition — cleaning swept up into our devotion. Therese Mueller writes, “Easter housecleaning is more than just a custom: it can be an outward reflection of the inner newness of soul.” (But, an important note: these wise women all also emphasize the importance of simple meals, even just eating leftovers on these days.)
The Sacred Triduum
Our days on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday will be filled with services. On Thursday, our church has a Lamb Supper followed by the Maundy Thursday Eucharist. On Good Friday, we have a Stations of the Cross service (geared towards children), a Seven Last Words of Christ service, and, in the evening, our Tenebrae service. On Holy Saturday, the day will be quiet and watchful, until our Easter Vigil service begins at 8:30. During the day, we will be working on preparing Easter basket to take to church on Sunday morning.
Writing this post has made me eager for next week. Soon, after the darkness of Holy Week, our Lent will be over and we will be able to say with St. John of Damascus, “Now all things have been filled with light.” But until then, I will be remembering this advice from Therese Mueller:
During the Paschal Days themselves surely we can do no better than to urge our children to participate to the fullest in the services of Holy Mother Church. They are so profound and absorbing that even young children early learn to love them.
Read Part 2 here (which includes some Easter book recommendations and other traditions).