Palm Sunday marks the start of the holiest week in the Christian Liturgical calendar. A day often marked with pews filled with families waving palm leaves was celebrated this year by priests and religious in mostly empty churches, and by families self-isolating at home participating via live-streams or YouTube videos.
This new reality for me marked two important aspects of being a member of the Church: first, that despite not being able to be in Church this Holy Week, I remember that I am a part of the the Church – a part of the body of Christ – and wherever I pray and worship, prayer and worship is still happening, and God will respond. Christ is present because I myself am a part of His body, and a temple of the Holy Spirit.
The second thing that today’s remote service made me acutely aware of is that I am only a part of the Church, and that I need the other parts to be whole. Going to church each week helped me remember that; now I need to look for new ways to remember and feel my connection to others. While I may not be be able to sing hymns lead by my parish’s amazing choir, or listen to my pastor break open the Word of God, or share the sign of peace with members of my parish community, I can still reach out in other ways. I can donate food/money to help those who have been put out of work, and those who were homeless or hungry even before this pandemic; I can call on my neighbour to see if they need help, or just someone to talk to; I can share ideas to keep kids entertained with my parent friends, or messages of encouragement to those working under difficult circumstances; I can learn new technology to try to stay connected to other people in ways we haven’t done before; and so many other things that I haven’t thought of yet!
I think too often we grow complacent that showing up at Church is sufficient to our Christian witness. Now that we are not able to do that, perhaps we can recognize that God uses our most challenging circumstances to push us into creating new and wonderful ways of being our best selves, and being the best church we can be.
Like the realizations mentioned above, my hope and prayer for when this is over is also two-fold: one, that we will be hungry to gather around the altar once more and not take for granted the rich liturgical traditions we are offered; and two, that we will have a greater understanding of what it means to BE Church – to bring Christ’s loving presence to the fearful, the hopeless, the vulnerable and marginalized, and to recognize our call to welcome and care for and uphold the dignity of every human life.
Ideas and Suggestions for Celebrating Holy Week at Home
Ways to Celebrate Holy Week at Home with your family:
List of Churches offering Online Services: https://hamiltondiocese.com/news/2020/April/online-masses-and-resources
Holy Week Services being offered online is various languages:
Virtual Stations of the Cross:
ASL Stations of the Cross: