Ask a person of a different faith (or none) what the most important festival in the Christian calendar is, and they’ll probably answer, without missing a beat: Christmas. It is, after all, the festival which the secular world has retained while largely turning its back on the Church, and most people celebrate it even if they aren’t of a religious persuasion.
We know differently, however, and most of us are probably feeling pretty disappointed not to be able to celebrate the feasts of the Passion and Resurrection of the Lord in our usual manner. In most parishes this would normally mean extended worship services, incense, bells and singing which starts mournfully on Maundy Thursday, but builds to a joyful crescendo at the Saturday vigil. However, Christians have been proclaiming Christ crucified and risen for two thousand years, and it will, quite frankly, take more than a global pandemic to stop us.
With that in mind, here are ten easy ways you can observe the Sacred Triduum while in lockdown.
1. Create a Gethsemane garden in your house or garden
Father David has had the wonderful idea of everyone setting up a small corner in their homes or gardens as a place to pray and keep the Lord company as he enters into His passion. This can be done using candles, fairy lights, flowers, icons and anything else which inspires you.
We are encouraging parishioners to send photographs of their gardens to the vicar; these will be displayed on the blog over the weekend. If you’d like some inspiration, here are the gardens from the Harris and Krejci households:
2. Make a holy hour of adoration via video link
The Benedictine nuns at Tyburn convent stream live, twenty four hour adoration from their chapel, meaning you can see Jesus whenever you like (I think of it as a bit like Facetiming in a long-distance relationship – not ideal but better than nothing!). I believe that Our Lord is pleased with efforts to draw close to Him and I’m sure that, if we approach Him as reverently as we would ‘in real life’, He’ll be all too happy to bless the time and grant us graces accordingly.
You can visit the online chapel here:
3. Pray the Stations of the Cross
Paul Hearn has put together a pdf file of the Stations of the Cross devotion, complete with paintings by Jan Hearn and meditations compiled by Father Tomas. It will be posted on the main page of the Parish website to download or print. In this powerful version of the Stations, we are encouraged to draw close to Our Lady, walking with her and seeing Christ’s passion through her eyes.
4. Observe the Good Friday fast
Assuming you don’t have any medical conditions which would make it unsafe, you may wish to observe the Catholic tradition of fasting on Good Friday. This doesn’t have to be ‘hardcore’ – simply eating smaller, simpler meals and avoiding meat, alcohol, sweets and other luxuries can help us get into the spirit of the day.
5. Pray the sorrowful mysteries of the Rosary
Another powerful way of engaging with the Lord’s passion while drawing close to Our Lady. The Rosary is known for being a potent spiritual weapon (I once heard it referred to as ‘a whip for the devil’) and can be coupled with intercessory prayer for the conversion of sinners and the healing of our world.
6. Forgive someone who isn’t sorry
As the Roman soldiers cruelly drove nails into His hands and feet, Jesus prayed that His Father would forgive them, for they did not know what they were doing. Our natural reaction might be to think that Our Lord really was being far too nice, yet we have to remember that our sins put Him on that cross as much as anyone else’s. It’s human nature to bear grudges and want to see justice done – but few of us would want to see justice done to ourselves. This Good Friday, try asking the Lord to highlight to you an area of unforgiveness or ill feeling in your heart, so that He can sweep it away in His merciful love. Make a commitment to forgive that person and pray for them – even if, like the Roman soldiers, they aren’t sorry.
7. Stream Masses from St. Giles or a church of your choosing
Father David has been celebrating Mass daily in his home and posting videos online. He has done this to allow us to participate from our homes and make spiritual communions, by which we receive the same graces as if we had physically partaken of the Eucharist. At the risk of getting into some really deep theological water, what’s really neat about the Mass is that there is, in fact, only one – and it exists outside of space and time. Therefore, you can watch and participate any time.
I recommend setting up a devoted space where you intend to stream Mass – make sure the surface is free of clutter, light some candles and perhaps even place some flowers or small statues. Approach the service with the same devotion and reverence you would when attending Church. This will make the experience special and sacred.
8. Have a couple of late nights
You may wish to stay up a little later than normal on Thursday night, to watch with the Lord as He prays in the Garden. He wants His friends with Him at this moment, and will be glad of your company. You might also do the same on Saturday night as we wait for the Resurrection.
9. Make Sunday a feast day!
Sunday marks the end of Lent and the most joyful day of the year in the Christian calendar. Don’t be afraid to mark the occasion with plenty of food and a glass or two of sparkling wine if you can get any. Fill your home with your favourite worship music and take the time to celebrate.
10. Take the time to worship, praise and give thanks to God for all He has done for you
Because of what Jesus went through, the grave has been forever conquered, and those of us who have put our trust in Him are now called Children of God. Thanks to Him, death has lost its sting and we have an eternity in His presence to look forward to. We’ve been redeemed, reconciled to the God who so passionately loves us, and our sin has been removed as far away from us as the east is from the west, cast into a sea called Forgetfulness. Take some time to relish in your new identity, the one Jesus bought for you with His life – and give your Father glory. It’s what He wants!
...Finally, please keep checking the parish website and blog for more art, reflections and other spiritual content to make this Easter special for you.
by Lucy Stothard