We have reached Holy Week, and churches around the world are preparing for services online and attempting to celebrate virtually instead of gathering in person in their communities. It is hard to imagine Easter Sunday without being together in beautifully decorated churches and singing our hearts out in celebration of the resurrection. Yet if we step back and contemplate the first Easter, we realize that this is very much how it was for the disciples. It was a quiet time, and only a few gathered at the tomb. In the days that followed, there was uncertainty. Even in the post-resurrection appearances, the disciples did not recognize Jesus at first. They were consumed with the pain of loss, and they were afraid. But Jesus showed up, again and again, in the midst of their pain and uncertainty, and revealed himself as he demonstrated the ultimate truth that love is stronger than death. He assured them that death does not have the final word, and they were amazed. With time, they began to trust and believe that all would be well in the end. And it will be.
As we move into Holy Week, I would like to offer three things for us to do in the peace and quiet of our homes as we prepare for the celebration of Easter.
Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday, as we remember Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. I invite you to gather some branches from your yard and tie them together and place them on your front door, patio, or mailbox. They do not need to be palm branches. In fact, it is only in the Gospel of John that the branches gathered were palm branches. In other versions, they were simply “branches."
Before his death, Jesus was anointed by Mary in Bethany. Anointing is a sacred practice of healing, and in the Bible important figures were anointed before becoming prophets and kings. As an expression of love for one another and for the healing of our community, we may practice anointing with our family members. You may use olive oil or other oils present in your home, adding a touch of perfume if you like. Simply dip your thumb into the oil and make the sign of the cross on the palms of a family member. You may add these beautiful words from the Song of Songs: “Place me as a seal upon your heart, for love is as strong as death.” For those of you who may be alone, you may anoint yourself, expressing self-love and recognizing the presence of Christ within you.
On Maundy Thursday, the day before Good Friday, we commemorate the Last Supper. On this night, I invite you to have an agape meal, a “love feast,” in which your family gathers for a simple meal including bread to break and share. Take time during the meal to share stories of love and gratitude that you have for one another. Pray the Lord’s Prayer at the end of the meal.
I pray that you all will have a precious and purposeful Holy Week, and for those who are celebrating Passover, I pray that you may have a holy time with your families as you commemorate the liberation of the Israelites from Egypt. May God bless us all.