Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week. This week we call to mind the unconditional love of Jesus who gave his life for us. Commemorating the events that led to our salvation, we set our sights on celebrating the Lord’s’ victory over sin and death on Easter Sunday. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, one might ask how the week ahead could possibly be holy, given the suffering, fear, uncertainty and isolation this crisis has caused?
The circumstances of any given time in history do not dictate whether we observe the redeeming actions of God’s steadfast love. We do not cancel Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter or Pentecost because wars, natural disasters, acts of terror or terrible illnesses disrupt the normal order of doing things. However, such circumstances at times call us to adjust our prescribed and usual ways of making the observance.
This Holy Week we are asked to stay at home. The distribution of blessed palms will have to wait until another time. Absent will be the public celebration of the inspiring Chrism Mass on Monday, the beautiful Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, the poignant Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday, the great Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday night, the glorious Mass on Easter. We priests will celebrate these liturgies without our beloved people present with us, as we have been doing these past weeks (and we miss you so much!). The faithful, if they have such access, will view these sacred liturgies from the pews of their living room sofas and chairs. Those who cannot connect through the internet will be left to imagining their participation in these holy rituals which many look forward to every year.
We need this Holy Week. During these days, let’s go to church in our hearts. Let’s take with us family, friends, doctors, nurses, patients with the virus and families of those mourning those who have died. Let’s pray more than ever. Pray the rosary with those in our homes. Name out loud people we are remembering in prayer. Let’s sing holy songs of praise and hope. Until returning to the altars of our churches, let’s make a space for an in home altar, a special place where we put a Bible, a candle, a statue of Mary or of a saint, some flowers, photos, or art, all calling us to connect with Jesus and each other.
The coronavirus has not canceled Holy Week, it has changed it. The victory of Jesus over sin and death can never be canceled and we are changed because of it. That is the meaning of Holy Week, even one so very different.
Together in faith, Very Rev. Christopher Smith, Rector