This is the second article in a new series on "How to Celebrate Holy Week at Home."
He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer...”
These words of Jesus are as true today as they were when He spoke them to the disciples on that first Holy Thursday.
Jesus desires to be with us now, this Holy Week and always.
It is natural for us to be distressed by our empty, closed churches. It is a true loss that we cannot be with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and in Holy Communion.
However, we can take comfort knowing that Jesus “earnestly desires” to be with us! That is why He instituted the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist: “I will not leave you orphans, I will come to you” (John 14:18).
The memorial of Holy Thursday is a profoundly important celebration. It was on this day that Our Lord gave us an incredible gift—the ability to be united with Him not only spiritually, but physically. The gift of the Holy Eucharist is beyond measure—a gift that we are learning not to take for granted!
Since we are not able to attend Holy Thursday Mass at our parishes, and participate in its processions, we should do what we can to commemorate this special day in other meaningful ways.
By incorporating some of the ideas below, Holy Thursday can be a special time in which we draw closer to Christ within the confines of our homes.
6 Ideas for celebrating Holy Thursday
1. Veil your statues.
During the final weeks of Lent, the Church veils (covers) sacred images of Christ, Our Lady, and saints in purple cloth. This alerts us to the gravity of this solemn time. As Stephanie Mann wrote in The National Catholic Register:
...the Church deepens its penitential efforts as we prepare to remember Our Lord’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection; the reception of the Elect at the Easter Vigil, and the renewal of our Baptismal promises. The statues are hidden just as Jesus’s Divinity was hidden while He was Incarnate on earth; the altar is stripped just as Jesus was stripped; the tabernacle is empty and the sanctuary candle extinguished just as Jesus seemed to have been vanquished by death: we are all veiled in the Paschal Mystery.
When we cover up our statues and holy pictures at home, it deprives us even of that consolation of looking at that sacred image—allowing us to enter into the experience of His death and burial, in which He was taken from the sight of Our Lady and the disciples. This holy tradition also heightens our anticipation for Easter.
You can use nice tissue paper, cloth napkins, or other pieces of cloth as coverings. They must not be decorated or sheer. Use solid colors, and purple specifically, if you possibly can.
If you don’t have enough to cover every holy image, just cover the most prominent ones.
2. Wash each other’s feet.
It is a beautiful tradition to imitate Our Lord’s humility when He washed the feet of His disciples. Some families practice humility by doing this at home—for example, the father of the family might wash the feet of his wife and children.
There are also other ways in which you can serve those in your family. Try to do at least one act of service for each person throughout the day. Another option is for the family to pull names (secret-Santa-style) and try to serve that family member in little ways throughout the day.
3. Have a special memorial dinner.
We commemorate the Institution of the Holy Eucharist (and the priesthood!) on Holy Thursday.
You can make Holy Thursday dinner special by dressing up in your best clothes, taking extra care when setting the table, and preparing an extra-nice dinner.
A few years ago, my family started using this tutorial [click here] to hold a separate “memorial dinner” right before we eat the actual nice dinner. This memorial dinner draws from a traditional Passover “Seder” meal. It has specific items of food that are taken from (or inspired by) the Old Testament and the food eaten by the Israelites in obedience to God.
When my family does this, we talk about each item as it is presented, so that everyone understands.
You can adjust the ritual to suit your family—for instance, we make a roast, rather than lamb, use crackers rather than matzah, and we give the kids juice instead of wine.
The point of this special meal is to remember God’s action throughout salvation history and to grow in appreciation and love for the Eucharist. Even when the meal is interrupted by a spilled drink or a giggle over a mispronounced word, it is a tradition that we all look forward to!
4. Keep watch with Christ.
Set some aside time in the evening for prayer. Put away the phones and turn off the TV and do an hour (or more) of “adoration” in your home. It would be nice to set up a little home altar at which to pray. Whatever you do, have a set place and a set time during which you “stay and watch” with the Lord, as He requested.
And he cometh to his disciples, and findeth them asleep, and he saith to Peter: What? Could you not watch one hour with me?
If you have kids, it’s a good idea to do a shorter time—maybe ten minutes or so. After they are in bed, you can continue to keep company with Christ.
The important thing here is to just be with Jesus. You don’t have to do anything special, just keep watch with Him for an hour or so. Spiritual reading can be helpful in keeping your mind from wandering.
5. Say the Rosary.
Mary was with Jesus during His passion. She stayed by His side with St. John. Say the Rosary and ask Our Lady to help you never leave Jesus’ side.
6. Make a Spiritual Communion.
Since you cannot receive Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament, make a spiritual communion during your time of “adoration.” Jesus knows the situation we are in, and He will stop at nothing to be with us in every way possible.
Each of these ideas can be as simple as you need them to be. The point of these activities is not to have a perfect night: the point is to honor the day and, like Mary, to accompany Jesus in His passion.
Click here for more Lent resources: Lent Resources
I am praying for a fruitful Holy Week for each of you!
What are you planning to do on Holy Thursday?
Do you have traditions? If so, what are they?
Will you use any of these suggestions? Let us know in the comments below!