This is a Good Friday illustration photo of wood, nails, wood and a crown of thorns. This year – 2022 – Good Friday will occur on 15 April. Photo: CNS, Nancy WiechecNobody told me it was Holy Week this week! And so I didn’t know.
I totally did it to myself. I usually feel so terrible about spending Holy Week frantically doing last-minute shopping for frilly dresses and tights and chocolate and candy for the kids, when I ought to be pondering my own mortality. This year, vowing to keep my priorities straight, I did all the shopping and fussing far ahead of time, and filled up my bedroom with bags and parcels of Easter goodies all packed away, ready to be brought out when the season was right.
The upshot was that, when Holy Week actually arrived, I had no clue. I had deprived myself of the usual cues of furtive guilt and desperation, and there was nothing to replace it. Now it’s almost Good Friday, everything’s ready, and I’m completely disoriented.
“Triduum is a short, strange, unsettling time, and it’s good to help ourselves feel the strangeness of it by removing some of the ordinary bustle and noise of our everyday life if possible.”
Jokes aside, I have been thinking about how to keep Holy Week holy — beyond, of course, the traditional fasting, praying, and giving alms, which I assume you already know about! Very few of us can simply drop out of our everyday routine and focus entirely on spiritual things to prepare for Easter. We have to live our everyday lives while still somehow preparing ourselves for the most holy and solemn and meaningful three days of the entire year. How do we pull that off?
Here are a few ideas that require no preparation, and you can do them immediately, and they may help put you in the right frame of mind for the Triduum.
Don’t denounce anybody. If you spend any time on social media, this one is harder than it might seem. So many people are so ripe for denunciation! But you can just take a pause and remember that all sins, all the ones you detest in other people, and all the ones you excuse in yourself, all are accounted for in the cross. So take a pause, and let the cross account for them, rather than doing it yourself, just for now. It doesn’t mean you’re condoning evil or looking the other way or being one of those much-maligned good men who says nothing. You’re just acknowledging that this is the one week when right and wrong is bigger than you and your wagging finger.
Quiet down. Just . . . quiet down, everywhere. Quiet your voice, quiet the radio, quiet your music. Take everything down a notch, or turn it off altogether. Opt out of anything optional that’s raucous or frenetic, just for a few days. Triduum is a short, strange, unsettling time, and it’s good to help ourselves feel the strangeness of it by removing some of the ordinary bustle and noise of our everyday life if possible.
Listen. Make a particular effort to listen to the people around you. Give them your full attention when they are talking to you, and try to respond to them as humanely as you can. When you go outdoors, listen to the sounds of the natural world, and be more aware of the complexity of the millions of little lives that surround you. And try to be ready to listen to the tiny, easy-to-ignore voice of the Holy Spirit that patiently waits and waits for you to be ready to listen.
“Rest is very much baked into who we are and who God is, so if we’re ever going to make a point of doing it.”
Go to bed a little bit earlier. Not everyone can do this! Lots of people have no choice about how much sleep they get. But many of us, me included, stay up late for no good reason, and it has a bad effect on them and everyone they interact with the next day. In a small act of self-discipline, try sending yourself to bed sooner than you’d like. It’s not self-indulgent. Even Jesus rested over Holy Saturday. He didn’t die for our sins and then bounce right back up again out of the grave, but he rested. I know He was busy scouring the underworld, but I do believe he was also taking a break. Rest is very much baked into who we are and who God is, so if we’re ever going to make a point of doing it, let’s do it before Easter if we possibly can.
Be content with whatever your Lent has been. If you haven’t used your Lent in any especially admirable way, there’s not really any such thing as scrambling to make up for lost time at the last minute. That was never what it was about anyway. We all show up empty-handed. You can offer up failure to the Lord, too, and He receives that as graciously as any great achievement or sacrifice. The point is to show up. Always show up. The only mistake you can make is to stay away.