It’s kind of fun to be a non-parochial priest during Holy Week. No bulletins to proofread. No sermons to write. I don’t even have to go to the services if I don’t want to. Last week during announcements, the rector talked about how Holy Week is like a book and you don’t want to miss any of the chapters. I leaned to the woman next to me and said, “I’ve read this book before; I know what happens.”
But I’ve also been trying to think about how to make Holy Week meaningful after 20 years of going to Episcopal services. Here are five suggestions I have for making Holy Week meaningful. As with most sermons, this is a sermon to myself. I hope you find it useful for you as well, and welcome your suggestions!
1. Laugh at the goof-ups These Holy Week services are intended to be solemn and reverent, I know, but things happen. Like the “loud noise” of Tenebrae involving the gong crashing to the floor. At the wrong time. Really, what else can you do but laugh? Well, you can get all upset about it, I suppose, but it’s easier if you can just laugh about it.
2. Find the echoes of Holy Week in other places Yesterday, Keeper managed to tramp through some mud so I had to wash his feet before he came in the house. I couldn’t help but think of Maundy Thursday and it made me think of my relationship with Jesus in new ways. I’m looking out for echoes of the story of Holy Week to see what they have to tell me.
3. Pace yourself This is easier to do if you’re not actually running any services, or in the choir (where we called this “Extreme Worship”). But if you are doing the full-on week of worship services, recognize that this is a lot and permit yourself to cut back on other things. Give up, say, blogging for a couple of days. You are taking on extra work. Make adjustments accordingly.
4. Allow yourself not to like a service if you don’t like it I think there’s a lot of pressure we put on ourselves that “This is Holy Week! It must be deeply meaningful!” But the truth is a) some services will hit us more deeply than others and b) some services/sermons/music are just plain better than others. It’s not a sign that you’re not spiritual or that you’re not fully entering the mystery that is Holy Week if you don’t like a service. Better to admit it than to force yourself into a spiritual falsehood.
5. Remember you’re not being graded God is not going to love you any more if you “do” Holy Week “right.” Your salvation is not at stake if you “do” Holy Week “badly.” Don’t beat up on yourself if Holy Week isn’t the religious experience you thought it ought to be. Be present and be aware of what’s going on for you. Love God, love others, love yourself. Christ is with us. God is good.
A blessed Holy Week to you all.