The Passover Supper, Holy Week ceremonies and Easter celebration will take place in your house this year. Civil and religious leaders are making efforts to ensure that coronavirus does not spread through public places, including places of public worship. They have advised that we steer clear from crowded places and live in self-isolation. In many states and countries people cannot gather at this time to celebrate the Paschal mysteries (the Lord’s Supper, Good Friday, and Easter). No one envisaged that the Holy Week ceremonies preceding Easter Sunday would happen during the lockdown. However, we can stay at home and celebrate with our families.
Seeing all churches locked and the absence of public worship, I hear the faithful re-echo the question the disciples asked Jesus:
“Where will You have us prepare for You to eat the Passover before the Last Supper?”
Jesus sent His disciples an unknown man. He said,
“Go into the city to a one, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says,
My time is at hand; I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’”
~ Matthew 26:18
Just imagine that the unknown man is you, and the Lord’s Supper would be taking place at your house. Every crisis comes with an opportunity, and the coronavirus pandemic, despite how devastating it has been, has enabled families to stand up with their faith and pray together. In fact, the Church is also a domestic Church, which begins from the family.
The Holy Week ceremonies begin with Passion Sunday, and the ceremonies intensify with Holy Thursday up until Easter Sunday. The Lord’s Supper was held on Passover Day. The Passover meal was originally a family affair, and was a celebration of the ancient deliverance of Israel from slavery in the land of Egypt. The people of Israel were instructed to have a Passover ceremony in their houses as a remembrance of their liberation. They were to share the Passover meal in a family group of not less than ten members, and not more than twenty.
“If the household is too small to eat the animal,
a man must join with his neighbour, the nearest to his house,
as the number of persons requires.”
~ Exodus 12:4
It is not surprising that Jesus had the meal with His twelve disciples, which was within the required numerical range. Ordinarily, Jesus would not make a fuss over the required number of people. He once told his disciples:
“For where two or three gather in My name, there am I with them.”
~ Matthew 18:20
The Passover meal reinforced the people’s faith in the God who saves. The shared meal was a time to renew the unity of the family; it was a time to recall the wonders the Lord has done for the family and the community; it was a time to perform sacred ritual.
Every celebration requires preparation, and so cleaning the surroundings precedes the Passover. The people were instructed:
“On the first day you are to clean all leaven out of your houses.”
~ Exodus 12:15
Jesus would say cleaning the outside of the cup without purifying the inside is only a job half done. Therefore, it is important that the faithful use the opportunity of internal purification before the Passover celebration. In this period of pandemic, there may not be opportunities to go to church for Confession, but there can be opportunities for reconciliation even within the family. There can be time to talk over some matters that have divided the families and for mutual forgiveness. In matters of grave sin, a penitent could make an Act of Contrition where there is no possibilty of meeting a priest for the usual auricular confession. The Act of Contrition in a critical situation is done with a firm resolve to go for Confession after the pandemic.
The Passover is also a time for remembrance. The Israelites were told:
“And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ritual mean?’ you will tell them, ‘It is the sacrifice of the Passover in honour of Yahweh who passed over the houses of the sons of Israel in Egypt, and struck Egypt but spared our houses’.”
~ Exodus 12:27
When Jesus had supper with His disciples, He transformed the meaning of the Passover. He gave them His body and blood in the form of bread and wine. He says to them: “Do this in memory of Me.” Therefore, the Passover assumes a new meaning. It is celebrated at Mass to remember the death of Jesus, the Lamb who was slain for the sins of the world.
How will Holy Week Ceremonies look in homes and without a priest? The Holy Week ceremonies at home requires that the leader of the family or any senior member of the family lead in the service; it requires active participation of all in the preparation of the place where all gather (central table, clean or white cloth, and candles). The format would begin with greetings, penitential service (I confess), the Gloria, reading of the Word of God; sharing/breaking the Word. The leader may explain the Word of God which is read, or each person or some members of the group may say a Word about any verse that they find meaningful; the profession of faith and prayers of the faithful come afterward, and a prayer of spiritual communion. Those who live alone could join another person or family for the ceremonies. Following the liturgical ceremonies on the television or social media is a good idea that supplements the practical family service.
Jesus says, I will keep the Passover and the Easter ceremonies at your house.
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and He with Me.”
~ Revelation 3:20