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The liturgies of the Church throughout Holy Week are the pre-eminent way to share in the Passion, death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Here’s a brief look at the week and, in answer to a request, a few ways my family celebrates it each year.
The Church remembers Christ’s triumphal week in Jerusalem. The cries of “Hosana!” with which the people greeted Jesus will turn to “Crucify him!” in just one week.
The only two required services of Holy Week are the two Sunday Masses — Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. But you’ll notice that Palm Sunday’s Passion reading covers it all: The betrayal of Judas, Holy Thursday’s institution of the Eucharist and Good Friday.
Monday of Holy Week
This is traditionally considered the day Christ “cleansed the Temple” in Jerusalem, driving out the money changers and overturning tables.
Those in the Hoopes family who are home-schooled get this whole week off.
Tuesday of Holy Week
Today we remember Jesus’ last run-in with the Pharisees and discourse about the last days.
In the Hoopes family, this is the last week we have “Lenten decorations” in our house. These consist of a clay pot with bare wooden sticks (they will be adorned with colorful Styrofoam eggs at Easter) and a crucifixion scene (it gets replaced with an empty tomb Saturday night).
Wednesday of Holy Week — “Spy Wednesday”
This is the day Judas decides to betray Christ. A Tenebrae (darkness) service may be available to you this day, in which all the light in the sanctuary is extinguished.
A “cheater” version: During the night’s Rosary start with six lit candles; extinguish one after every decade. (Leave one to symbolize hope in the Resurrection and so that you can still see.)
Thursday of Holy Week
Lent ends officially with the beginning of the “Easter Triduum” at the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper which commemorates the Institution of the Priesthood and the Institution of the Eucharist.
This is the night that the tabernacle doors are left open and the Blessed Sacrament is “reposed” on a side altar. We try to bring the family not just to Mass, but to Adoration at the altar of repose in the quiet of a Holy Thursday night.
This is the day Jesus died, and it is remembered with a Celebration of the Lord’s Passion which includes the Solemn Intercessions, distribution of communion consecrated on Holy Thursday, and the veneration of the Cross. It is a fasting day. Note: This is also the day the Divine Mercy Novena begins. Find details at The Gregorian.
In our home, we attend the Lord’s Passion at our parish and do a stations of the cross on our own, for which the children gather materials to represent each station (a gavel, a Band-Aid for each fall, a Mary statue, a cross, a veil, a hankie, gauze, nails, a crucifix, and a shoebox). We also watch Ben Hur every Good Friday— a perfect movie for the day because the plot resolves at the crucifixion. A plus: It takes up hours of time on a fasting day.
This is the day on which we remember that Christ descended into Hell. Check The Gregorian for the ancient homily from the Office of Readings this day.
At our home and many others, it is also a day of preparation for Easter celebrations. We dye eggs — but then put them away. We fill plastic eggs for our egg hunt — but then put them under the table.
We go to Easter Vigil Mass that night and get ready for Easter Breakfast, Easter baskets and the Egg Hunt on Sunday.