We are just days away from the climax of the Church year, the holiest days of the entire year. However, the majority of Catholics will be confined to their homes during these holiest days of the year due to the COVID-19 outbreak. This year is going to be different, no doubt, and we should try our very best to observe these holy days as best we can. Below I have put forth several things we can all do to observe these days.
I would encourage each of us to find some sort of “TV Mass” to help us better observe these days and enter into the Sacred Liturgy:
Traditional Latin Mass, here
Live from Rome with the Holy Father, here or via EWTN
Novus Ordo Mass, here
For many people, especially the children, the highlight of Palm Sunday is the distribution of the palm branches during Holy Mass, commemorating our Lord’s triumphant entrance into Jerusalem. As Mother Angelica would suggest, use your imagination! Three of the Holy Gospels mention Palm Sunday, and only one of them mentions actual palm branches; the other two gospels mention leaves and branches. Get a branch, get a green leaf, a green flower, etc. these all will suffice for your observance at home. Perhaps use some paper and paper and cut your own palm branches out - get creative! No matter your choice to observe this significant part of Palm Sunday, our Lord will be pleased.
In the rite of St. Pius V, the Passion of Our Lord according to St. Matthew is sung. Reading this account of Our Lord’s Passion aloud from the Sacred Scriptures may allow one to enter more deeply into Holy Week.
We enter into the Paschal Triduum. On Holy Thursday we remember Our Lord instituting both the Sacred Priesthood and the Holy Eucharist. Today we sing the Gloria, and traditionally bells within the Church are rung, the bells will not be rung again until the Great Easter Vigil. By the end of the Holy Thursday liturgy, the Church moves into the period of mourning as we observe Christ’s betrayal, His abandonment by the Disciples, and His imprisonment. Following the traditional procession of the Blessed Sacrament, the altar is stripped, meaning, all altar cloths, altar cards, etc. are removed from the sanctuary. Traditionally, following the stripping of the altar the Mandatum is observed, the washing of the feet. There are multiple ways to observe this day, and should be observed in the evening:
Read the Holy Gospel for the liturgy, which is John’s account of the washing of feet, John 13:1-30.
You may also choose to read Jesus’ institution of the Holy Eucharist, John 14:1-31.
Sing the Gloria and ring bells! Find a bell and ring it while chanting the Gloria.
To observe the stripping of the altar, hopefully, you have a home altar set up, if so, remove any images, statues, etc., perhaps leave a crucifix for adoration later in the evening, however, now remove all other items.
To observe the Mandatum, read the traditional nine antiphons that would usually be sung while during this service. You can find the nine antiphons here, or in the St. Andrew Daily Missal, pages 548-551.
Lastly, many make the traditional holy hour before Our Lord in repose. From what I have observed, some parishes will be left open Thursday night so that the lay faithful may continue in this tradition of visiting Our Lord at the Altar of Repose. This allows us to enter into the Garden of Olives with Jesus Christ and spend an hour with Him, remembering that His own disciples fell asleep. Whether you are able to go and pray before Our Lord at an Altar of Repose or are bound to your home, allow yourself to contemplate Our Lords Agony in the Garden and His arrest.
Today we observe the traditional and obligatory day of fasting and abstinence.
Unveil your crucifix and venerate the cross! Traditionally, while the cross is still veiled, the priest would receive the crucifix and unveil it in three stages, first the title (INRI), then the right arm, and then the head, finally, the entire corpus is unveiled. During each of these stages, the priest would traditionally raise the crucifix each time and sing the words Ecce lignum Crucis, the people would answer Venite, Adoremus. Following this, the people would process to the front of the Sanctuary to venerate the cross. You too should observe this veneration, each of the things described above can be observed at home, by yourself or with others.
Recount the Passion of Our Lord according to St. John, John 18:1 - 19:42. You can listen to the Passion of Our Lord according to St. John here, in English. You may also want to use your personal copy of the Sacred Scriptures, this may allow you to enter more deeply into the observance.
The Solemn Intercessions or Prayers is a part of the liturgy the is quite beautiful. Here we pray for our Church, the Holy Father, for the faithful, for catechumens, for Christian unity, for the Jewish people, for those who don’t believe in Christ, for those who don’t believe in God, for those in public office, and for those in tribulation. You may want to pray these prayers privately at home, or by viewing a Good Friday “TV Liturgy. The text for the prayers can be found here.
Observe the Stations of the Cross or the Last Seven Words of Jesus.
The Church is silent. As evening comes and the sky falls dark we find the tomb empty. Jesus Christ has Risen from the dead! Alleluia! The Easter Vigil Mass marks the highest and most glorious moment in the Church year. The exsultet is chanted throughout the world. Traditionally, those who have prepared to be initiated into the Catholic Church would be initiated on this night. We renew our own baptismal promises. There are many ways you can choose to observe Holy Saturday:
Before Evening (perhaps in the days before), purchase or gather Easter lilies or flowers to prepare your home and home altar. Don’t put these in a public place until dark on Saturday.
Spend Saturday morning in prayer, perhaps before a veiled crucifix, remembering that Our Lord is in the tomb.
For the Easter Vigil:
Get candles for every member of your household and perhaps also a “special” candle as an Easter/Paschal candle. If you are participating in a “TV Mass”, light your candles when the priest is lighting his candle. (This would also go for ringing bells during the Gloria, and renewing baptismal vows when prompted)
Chant the mysterious words of the Exsultet, they can be found here.
Consider reading the traditional twelve pieces of scripture that recount Salvation History, here.
Pray the Litany of the Saints, here.
Alleluia! He is Risen! Today by God's grace our salvation has been granted. We should truly observe this day as a feast!
The Holy Father will give the annual Urbi et Orbi, the blessing to the City and the World, it can be viewed here.
Pray the Glorious Mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary! For those who followed the tradition of praying the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary for the entirety of Lent, let this time with the Blessed Mother be an experience of true rejoicing!
You may want to observe some of the things mentioned above under Holy Saturday, especially the ringing of the bells, renewal of the baptismal promises, and the lighting of candles.
-If possible, receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation (if it has been a week, a year, or longer)
-Divine Mercy Novena begins on Good Friday, find the prayers here