Time is a fickle thing.
A day can slip by totally unnoticed, like nothing ever changes. But how quickly a day turns into a week, turns into a month, turns into a year. The days are long, but the years are short.
Time moves fast, and Holy Week is one of those times that always seems to slip by. There is so much going on this week: getting Easter baskets ready, prepping for travel, and getting ready for spring break with the kids.
One thing may not feel like much, but we don’t need much to make sure Holy Week doesn’t pass us by.
So this year, I’m going to be intentional about Holy Week with my family. We’ve settled on three things to make sure we don’t miss Holy Week. You can pick one of these things, all three, or something entirely, but if you don’t plan to do something, you might miss Holy Week altogether.
1. Enter into the Silence
I’ve written before about the classroom of silence so I won’t go into a lengthy recap here, but I do have a confession . . .
With four kids under the age of nine, it’s pretty rare that we embrace much silence as a family.
I know, I know. No excuses; I should do better.
The problem is that my kids are not those perfect little angels that all the other Catholic families at Mass seem to have. My kids act like every Sunday is the first time they have ever stepped foot in a Catholic Church. If you ever get to come over and join my family for dinner, it is likely an experience you will never forget.
But during Holy Week, we will enter into the silence. My wife and I are going to explain to the kids that on Good Friday, Jesus suffered on the cross for three hours before finally dying at 3:00 p.m. So every night, as part of our family prayer time, we are going to try to introduce three minutes of silence.
Will it be perfect? I doubt it. But we are going to try.
I invite you to join me in the silence sometime this week. Maybe you could do thirty minutes of silence each day, ten minutes for each hour Jesus suffered on the cross. Or maybe you could take ten minutes at 3:00 p.m. each day and enter the silence. Set an alarm on your phone and do it every day. If you are really brave, you could set an alarm for 3:00 a.m. each day and just spend a few minutes in silence in the quiet of the early morning. However you adapt it, silence just might be the biggest game-changer of your Holy Week.
2. A Religious Practice for Holy Thursday and Good Friday
The Mass on Holy Thursday remembers the Last Supper, where Jesus instituted the Eucharist and established the priesthood. If you have ever been to it before, you will most likely remember one big thing: foot washing.
Jesus came to serve and not be served.
This is the Mass when your parish priest gets down on his knees and washes the feet of your fellow parishioners. It’s another one of those things that happens, and we don’t usually give much thought to it. But consider this: everywhere in the world, every priest is getting down on his knees and washing people’s feet. That’s hundreds of thousands—maybe even millions—of people having their feet washed. It’s a powerful reminder that Jesus came to serve and not be served. If Holy Thursday Mass can fit into your schedule, the humility of Jesus will meet you there in a powerful way.
We are also going to celebrate the foot washing in my house by having the whole family participate. I’m going get down and wash my wife’s feet. And she will wash my oldest son’s feet. And he will wash his younger brother’s feet—right on down the line until the two-year-old is washing the baby’s feet.
How could you make Jesus’ last supper personal to you? Who could you serve, even if it’s in a really simple way like giving them a compliment or holding a door? Whether you can attend Mass or find some other way to put yourself at the service of others, use Holy Thursday as a reminder that the world isn’t here for you, you are here for the world.
Good Friday is the day we remember Jesus’ death on the cross. There is no Mass. The church is usually dark and bare. There is no music, no church bells. It’s a solemn day.
And on this solemn day, we participate in one of the most solemn acts of reverence in the Church year: the Veneration of the Cross. These practices might seem a little old fashioned—maybe even a little bizarre. People taking the time to line up to kiss the cross or the feet of Jesus on a crucifix? But there is something beautiful in this old-fashion tradition. There is something truly counter-cultural about taking the time to kiss the feet of a dying man. Could there be a more stark reminder of our place in the world and his place in our lives?
Again, if you can get to the Veneration, God will meet you there in a moving way. But even if you can’t, get yourself a crucifix, and venerate the cross on your own. Kiss the feet of the dying King. It’s a beautiful thing.
3. A Personal Practice for Holy Thursday and Good Friday
For both Holy Thursday and Good Friday, my wife and I want to do something to help our children and our family take the day deep into our lives. We want chances to speak about the day to our kids. We want what we are here to remember to take deeper root in our hearts.
This one might sound a little bizarre, but on Friday around 3:00 p.m., we plan to be outside planting in our small garden on the side of our house. With the kids’ help, we will remember Jesus’ simple words “that unless a grain of wheat falls and dies, it remains but a single grain.”
Planting in our garden will be a symbol of death and life for our kids. Literally putting something into the ground and burying it, and the joy of new life as they watch it grow. This will give us a great way to not only remind them of Jesus’ death and resurrection on Good Friday, but also continue that conversation every time we see the flowers that grow throughout the Easter season.
Again, I invite you to find some way to introduce a little resurrection into your life. Maybe it’s just buying a potted plant and putting it someplace in your home. Maybe it’s planting, like us. It doesn’t have to be complicated or profound, but try to find a simple way to help this day sink deep into your personal life.
Some simple things: embracing the silence, going to Mass, venerating the cross, washing feet, and planting some seeds. If you aren’t sure where to start, just pick one thing. One thing you can do this Holy Week. One thing may not feel like much, but we don’t need much to make sure Holy Week doesn’t pass us by.