Celebrating Holy Week During a Pandemic

Posted On April 7, 2020

Holy Week 2020 – Under COVID-19 Conditions

“We rise with Christ each time we awaken to the presence of God. Every time we connect with our inner spirit—when we open our hearts and notice God’s amazing grace—we sense a deeper knowing. We embrace love flowing from the Spirit. We unite with Christ’s divine rising.”

—brian j plachta

Dear Friends,

Here’s a mid-Holy Week guest blog inspired by the newsletter I recently received from Don, my spiritual director, with some of my tweaks. May it inspire, you as it did me, to find new and creative ways to celebrate “being the living church.”  We Rise!


For most Christians, this is the most special week of the year.

I know it is mine! It is our orientation point of all we believe and all we are. It is not simply a historical event. It is not about remembering what Jesus did. It is about what Jesus continues to be in us and through us today.

We are members of his Body, the Body of Christ. We are one with his coming to this earth in human flesh (his Incarnation), Jesus’ life, teaching, healing, suffering, death, rest in the grave, resurrection, ascension and Jesus’  asking the Father to send the Holy Spirit into his Body on earth called the Church. And in this season we—Jesus’ Body—celebrate those events by which Jesus has lovingly united us to the Father, through the Holy Spirit, to himself for eternity. This week we are in the thick of celebrating God’s love for us.

In a normal year, we might be going to church at least four times to celebrate all this:

•Palm Sunday, to celebrate the triumphant entry of Jesus into the City of David, and “the straw that broke the camel’s back” (to mix a metaphor) in the eyes of the powerful people.

•Holy, or Maundy, Thursday, to celebrate so many things dear to us Christians. Jesus’ celebrating his Passover with his disciples, his promises, his great explanation of love in the washing of his disciples’ feet, his great gift and mandate to celebrate the bread and cup until he will come again (Eucharist), and finally his night in “agony,” discerning the will of his Father in heaven even as his humanness seeks another answer, the arrest in the garden, Jesus’ incarceration, and early morning trials.

•Good Friday, to be present to Jesus’ continued trials, beatings and eventually the horrific carrying the cross to Golgotha, Jesus hanging on a cross, dying and being lovingly buried.

•Easter Sunday and its Vigil, to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection and our sharing in that New Life.

While celebrating Holy Week “at Church” is wonderful,
we can celebrate these events
without having to be at a Church.
And this year we must,
Because it is too important for us to skip.
Celebrating Holy Week and Easter
 are “essential activities”
for all Christians
in good times and in bad,
in sickness and in health
in quarantine or not,
in this life and in the next.

The Church is not the building we go to for worship. The Church is the people, the Christian community, which gathers. This year the Church cannot gather at the ecclesia (“Church” – literally a ‘meeting place’ in Greek, our New Testament Biblical ancestral language).

So, the question becomes where do we gather this year, and how do we do it?

The obvious answer is: we celebrate it where two or three are gathered. Where is that? At your house! That’s right.

This year the Church will gather at your house!

What about the “What are we supposed to do?” For that, we are well equipped in the electronic era. Here are ideas, hardware and software.

•Sites on computers and on TV: from your parish, your church, or one of a thousand other wonderful places being offered “live-stream” or recorded. Just “google/search” “Holy Week Celebrations” for your area and you will find something that will guide you. Go to your church’s website, and you will find lots of suggestions.  

•Here’s a link to the Holy Week services being offered on line and/or on television through the Diocese of Grand Rapids, MI:  https://grdiocese.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/holy-week-2020-livestream-schedule.pdf

Whether you have your own service, or “watch together” something on line or TV, make it “hands on.”

If in your own home, be creative musically. Any inspiration music can be found on YouTube. Take advantage of that. Here’s some ideas for each day of Holy Week:

•On Maundy, or Holy, Thursday, actually take turns washing each other’s feet. What a moving experience that will be. We all had our feet washed for years before we could do it ourselves. Many of us have had to wash our elderly parents’ feet. Perhaps you have needed recently to wash your feet. Jesus said, “As I have done this to you, so must you do for one another.” He wasn’t kidding!

•On Good Friday, be creative. Read the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to John (18;1 – 19:42) which has the story broken up into the different speakers (e.g. Narrator, Jesus, Soldiers, Peter, Pilate, etc. 
Here’s a link to the text you can use: http://resources.ipsissima-verba.org/documents/good-friday-passion.pdf 
Make copies on your home printer and pass them around to the people in the story. Kids will love it. If they want to “ham it up” a little by costumes and crowns of thorns and a cross, great!

•Here is a link to the Irish Dominicans singing the Passion Story you can watch or sing along with: https://youtu.be/s3Btb-8HLQM.

•Another part of the service at home would be to find the biggest cross in your house, or even have some kids with mom or dad during Holy Week make a special big cross to use for this service. Pass the cross if it is small, or approach the cross; then let each person reverence it in a personal way. (Maybe with Covid-19 running around, it would not be a good idea to kiss it this year, eh?) If several rooms in the house have a cross or crucifix in it, gather them together for the service and then together go around and reverence them with a moment of silence.

•Conclude with a closing prayer from a worship book and perhaps a song from YouTube.

•On Holy Saturday, we observe the “Great Silence”  as a day of respecting Jesus’ lying in the tomb.  
Here’s a short YouTube that invites us to share in this Great Silence: https://youtu.be/gMm7dfaJnaQ

Easter Sunday, is full of possibilities. You can celebrate it either at dark on Saturday night or on Sunday.

Here’s two options:

Watch on line services: Watch the on-line services on your favorite worship site. You can also google “Easter Sunday services near me” and get a list of all kinds of various services on-line.

Create your own home service. Here’s a simple format you could use to create your own Easter Celebration:

Opening Prayer or Song

•Reading 1

•Reading 2 (optional)

•Gospel Reading (Here is a link to the readings for Easter Sunday: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/041220.cfm

•Reflection: one person shares insights or reads a reflection about the joy of resurrection.

•Our Father- recite the Our Father together.

Blessing of the Bread (have each family place bread or crackers in front them; then one family member says a short prayer to bless the bread such as:  

“God of Life, You are one bread, and we who are many, are one body, for we all partake of this bread.

“Lord, we thank you for uniting us as One, for you are the Bread of Life, and we share in your Life through our mind, body, and spirit. Let this bread nourish us with your wisdom and infinite love.”

Break, share and Eat the Bread. (those gathered each eat a piece of the bread).

•Closing Prayer or Song.

If you are a family with kids, you have been doing all kinds of creative things with the kids since school closed in your area due to the virus. So, you know how to do this. Apply what you have been doing with other things with the wonderful world of Holy Week. Just, as my Dad would say, “Make it fun.”

For you and your kids, it may be the Holy Week and Easter you’ll never forget.

We Rise! Easter Blessings.


Written by Brian J. Plachta

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