LENTEN LITURGICAL LIVING 4: Holy Week & the Triduum
When we began homeschooling last year, we were preparing our two oldest children for Reconciliation and first Holy Communion, both of which were scheduled to take place towards the end of Lent. That year among the chaos of first-time homeschoolers finding our way, and facing several big changes in our family life (including a job that required us to part-time relocate), we decided to make Lent and Holy Week the focus of our homeschooling season. The outcome? We had the most beautiful Lent, Holy Week, Triduum, and Easter that we had ever had as a family. (You can read more about our first year adventure here!)
With this wonderful experience under our belt (although very much still learning) I can’t help but feel overwhelmingly thankful and eager to celebrate Holy Week - taking full advantage of the blessing that homeschooling has provided for our family’s faith life.
Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday. It is the first day of the most sacred week of our Liturgical calendar. On this day, we remember the triumphant entrance into Jerusalem that Jesus received, knowing full well how quickly things changed. Starting this week with Mass as a family is extra important to set the tone for this holiest of weeks. Helpful hint: arrive early! I’m sure palms run out every so often, but also, this mass is usually one of the most crowded in the year at our parish. If you’re like me, standing at a whopping 5’ means I don’t get to see much of what is happening on the altar - indicating the kids surely won’t either. After Mass, we always fold our palms into crosses and keep them in a special place.
As the penitential season of Lent draws to a close, Reconciliation as a family is at the top of the to-do list. There is something extremely powerful about experiencing the Sacred Paschal Triduum after a good confession. Although we stand in line and experience the sacrament on our own, being able to share in the glowing embrace of grace afterwards together as a family is priceless. It also reinforces the importance of the sacrament to our children by modeling it together. Most parishes offer a generous schedule for Reconciliation during Holy Week, but if these aren’t possible, please reach out to the priest directly. It will be worth it.
Once the work-week begins, I put aside our usual homeschooling schedule for more relaxed days of intentional activities and reflection, and parish services. Planning activities ahead such as daily readings and prayers, crafts, or baking that reinforce the events of the week. Be sure to check out Kolbe’s Liturgical Living Guidepost for some excellent ideas. I like to have enough activities on standby to do at least one type of activity from Monday to Wednesday, and then two or more for each day of the Triduum. Whether that is a cross scene craft with blocks and lectio divina, or Stations of the Cross and baking crown of thorns bread, we bring the focus to the foot of the cross and the sacrifice that was made for our salvation. If we aren’t avoiding electronics, we also look for fitting videos and solemn music that can help us reflect on this holiest of weeks.
On Thursday night, the Mass of the Lord’s Supper begins the Triduum. Although it spans three days, the liturgical services that take place on these days are actually one single liturgical celebration. Each day has specific traditions and celebrations within the parish. Holy Thursday celebrates both the institution of the Holy Eucharist and of the priesthood. Many parishes do the washing of the feet, which we also do at home as a family. After Communion, there is no dismissal to end the Mass. Instead, the transfer of the Most Blessed Sacrament takes place and the community is invited to spend time adoration.
Good Friday is the only day in the year that the Church does not celebrate Mass. Although we do receive Communion at the Eucharistic liturgy on this day, these hosts were consecrated the day before. Many parishes also offer Stations of Cross and adoration, and it is the first day of the Divine Mercy Novena. Several of our local parishes perform the Stations of the Cross in play form, which the kids always enjoy. In our home, it is a solemn day without music or games. We try to have quiet crafts, art or activities for the kids that surround the cross. It is a also day of fasting and abstinence, so even meals are kept simple.
Then comes Holy Saturday. Although the day is still reverently quiet, our hearts are filled with the hope of the third day. At home, we may bake goodies or prepare eggs for Easter as we carry on family discussions of what that day could have felt like for the disciples, until it is time for the absolutely beautiful Easter Vigil mass. The Triduum will not come to an end until the closing prayer on Easter Sunday.
Although celebrating Lent was always a priority in our family, homeschooling has provided an immense advantage of more family time over our previous brick-and-mortar schooling schedule. This blessing is one that I don’t want to take for granted, and want to use for the greatest purpose: leading our family to the Lord.
May this Holy Week be a blessed time in our homes. May the sacred meaning of these days sink deeply into our souls and stay with us always. And may we await with hope the miracle of that third day.
Saint Maximillian Kolbe, pray for us.
Mary, our Good Mother, pray for us.