The Pandemic Is Our Holy Week

About three months ago we chalked our houses with an Epiphany blessing. Before that they were decorated for Christmas, and before that for Thanksgiving, and before that for Halloween, and before that…. Well, you get the idea. We decorate, we remember, we celebrate with tangible things. They remind us, invite us, and help us to be present to and participate in what is happening. And Holy Week is no different. 

We walk in procession carrying palms. We wash feet. We venerate the cross. We eat bread and drink wine. At least we did last year. But this year will be different. We will not gather to wave our palms and sing All Glory, Laud, and Honor. We will not wash feet on Maundy Thursday. And we will not share the body and blood of Jesus. 

We may not be gathering in person but it will still be Holy Week. So let’s still decorate, remember, and celebrate. Let’s be present and participate. Let’s make each of our houses a house of worship, a little church, a reminder to ourselves and the world that it’s Holy Week. 

Here are some ways we could do that:

  • For Palm Sunday hang some palms or “leafy branches” (St. Mark’s description) on your front door or put them in a front window for others to see. Set up a table in your house or on the front porch (or even in both places). Cover it with a red cloth and set your palms or leafy branches on it.
  • On Maundy Thursday keep the table covered in red and set out a bowl or basin, a pitcher of water, and a towel. Or you could put them in a front window as a symbol of love for others. 
  • On Good Friday remove the table covering and let the table remain bare. Set a plain and simple cross on it, or put it in a front window. Remember, Jesus doesn’t take us off our cross. He gets up there with us.
  • On Easter Sunday hang some flowers and a white cloth on your front door, put them in a window, or cover the table with a white cloth and set out a bouquet of flowers and a lit candle. Proclaim beauty, light, life, and hope. Alleluia!

Holy Week will not happen in the church this year, at least not like it has in previous years. But here’s the thing, Holy Week never really did happen in the church. It happens in our lives. Maybe this is the year to rediscover that. Maybe this year we rediscover that Holy Week is about more than reenacting or telling the story of what happened to Jesus. It’s about giving thanks for and experiencing Jesus walking with us through the Holy Week of our life. (And yes, Holy Week often happens more than once a year.)

I have heard clergy and laity alike fretting about Holy Week. What are we going to do? How do we do Holy Week in the midst of a pandemic when we cannot be together in person? How can we make it tangible and meaningful? I get it. I’ve been one of them. But here’s what I also get. This pandemic does not stand as a barrier or in opposition to Holy Week. The pandemic is our Holy Week. We don’t need to try and make Holy Week “normal” or like previous years. We need to experience and connect to Holy Week, not in spite of what is happening, but through what is happening. 

Look into the pandemic and you’ll see triumphant palm waving that has given way to loss and brokenness. You’ll see humble and selfless acts of love. You’ll see feet being washed even when shoes and socks are never removed. You’ll see not only the deaths of people, but the deaths of life as it used to be, plans and routines, illusions, exceptionalism, and self-sufficiency. The people’s of the earth really have been made of one blood. You’ll see people waiting in the emptiness, loneliness, and darkness of Holy Saturday wondering, “How long, O Lord?” And who among us doesn’t know what that is like? 

Look into the pandemic and you’ll see Holy Week. It has never been more real than it is this year. 

I don’t know when or how we’ll get through this pandemic, but I know this. Every cross flowers with new life, every tomb is a workshop of resurrection, and every Holy Week is the raw material for a new creation.  

20 thoughts on “The Pandemic Is Our Holy Week

  1. Michael, thank you for this lovely reflection. John and I are hibernating at ranch in Goliad. We are being a “house church “ which I really like. Thank you for your words of wisdom.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The wisest and most helpful thing I’ve read since this all started. Thank you very very much.
    I hope it is ok to pass on some of these thoughts.
    Be Well

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for your inspiration that shows us how to envision and experience Holy Week through the lens of the pandemic. God bless you and yours.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a Godsend you are. Sorry I didn’t follow you when I was once called The Rev. , then The Very Rev. , now what I always wanted, the “hardly reverend.” Gee Alexander

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for your honesty in the dark thoughts that knocked (and may yet knock?) at the door of your heart too. Only the passing of this time will show us what the situation really is. I hope and pray it shall prove to be more controllable and less fatal than first considered for all our sakes.
    Whenever there is another statistic I ask – Why? What were the circumstances? What is the bigger picture here? I believe it is said that one can make statistics prove anything.
    Believe me I am not trying to downplay this as we don’t yet know what ‘this’ really is. I simply say let me be wise as a serpent so that the dove of peace can be seen through the words I use and actions I take.
    Meantime we are asked to separate. I am blessed as I live with my husband and two grown sons. I thank God our sons haven’t yet flown the nest in the present situation.
    I still work because I am a nurse but I see the elderly we care for are suffering from the loss of familiar contacts and this is heartbreaking.
    Colleagues are getting tired, a bit scared because we’re in it but there is still laughter and love and support for those we care for and each other.
    We really are all in one boat now.
    May God continue to make me brave.
    He is my Rock and my Salvation.

    “Jesus walking with us through the Holy Week of our lives”. That is a lovely and encouraging truth, Michael.

    I apologise if this is too much to say, I too sometimes have dark thoughts but know that since coming to Christ in my mid-twenties years ago I still hold onto the Lord’s promse in Jeremiah 29:11. I am mortal. He alone possesses immortality.

    Thank you Michael and God bless us all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your words Anne. You are right, there us much uncertainty and much that is not – and maybe cannot – be known right now. Maybe every moment in the present is a moment of his triumphal entry. I hope you and your family are well, and also your colleagues and healthcare providers everywhere. A few days ago I posted a prayer for healthcare providers.

      God’s peace be with you.
      Mike+

      Like

  6. ” Every cross flowers with new life, every tomb is a workshop of resurrection, and every Holy Week is the raw material for a new creation. ” – The most beautiful description of a life lived in Christ I have ever heard!! Wishing you the most different, life-changing, truth revealing, heart-consuming Holy Week from one walking through it alone. Thank you for helping my eyes to see its beauty.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erika, thank you very much for your words of blessing and kindness. I pray you a blessed Holy Week. You walk alone but not by yourself – another paradox of the spiritual journey and Holy Week.

      May the Presence be always known to your eyes and heart. Peace be with you.
      Mike+

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Dear Fr Mike As always you help me think and express the impact of things – in my thinking, in my preaching, and praying. As we remain close but distant, in touch but not touching, the Church where I now assist, (as a retired prison chaplain)is learning a whole raft of new things about being community, on line and also 2 metres apart , running errands, doing shopping, planting seeds and sharing them. Candles in the windows and singing on steps and from windows. Though locked down we are learning and growing. All joy and many blessings for Easter. Alison Tyler

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Rev. Allison, I think we are all learning new things about what it means to be together and the many ways that can happen. I love the paradoxes you describe. It certainly fits this time well – and I suspect will have significance even when this over (whatever that might mean).

      May God bless you, your ministry, and those for whom you care.

      Peace be with you.
      Mike+

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.