While there are some changes in the liturgies, so much remains the same.
Easter doesn’t change. Unlike some feasts of the Church that may be transferred to other days, the celebration of Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection is linked to the Jewish feast of Passover. Our annual remembrance of these sacred events follows on the changing of times and seasons, an unceasing cosmic rhythm.
This Holy Week, when we cannot gather to observe these holy days as we typically do each year, Pope Francis encourages us, saying, “Dear friends, let us journey in faith toward Holy Week in which Jesus suffers, dies and rises. Those people and families who cannot participate in the liturgical celebrations are invited to gather together in prayer at home, aided by the means of technology.”
The distance felt by many between their homes and the liturgy is a great sorrow this year. The pope, and others, have encouraged us to keep this time holy. Indeed many ways are available to us to mark the sacred time of this great feast even in our homes.
The absence of the faithful will be pronounced. Our distance from the Eucharist is obvious. And yet, you may notice other changes. The liturgy itself will be different this year.
On Holy Thursday many will notice the absence of the ritual washing of the feet. The Congregation for Divine Worship (the Vatican body which officially regulates the liturgy) has decreed that this sign of charity should be omitted. Neither will there be a Eucharistic procession to an altar of repose, as usually happens at the end of this Mass.
On Good Friday, when many express their profound gratitude for the work of redemption by kissing the Holy Cross, participants are instructed this year to offer simpler signs of veneration.
The Easter Vigil, which customarily begins with the blessing of the Easter fire, will commence with a simple lighting of the Paschal Candle and the singing of the great hymn, the Exsultet. There will be no blessing of holy water or sprinkling at the time of the renewal of baptismal promises.
And yet on these days, so much remains.
This Holy Thursday, we can focus instead on the New Commandment: to love one another. At the Last Supper, Jesus bestows this great commandment on his disciples.
Good Friday is a time to recall the victory of the cross. Nothing, not even death, can defeat the work of our redemption.
During the Easter Vigil, the light of the paschal candle will pierce the darkness, shining as a beacon of faith.
Christ is present. All time belongs to Him. Nothing can defeat the hope He brings.
This Holy Week we must ask for the eyes of faith to see Him, to recognize Him in our families, our colleagues, and our friends. May our hearts be filled with His charity, that the peace of Christ will be made manifest to all in a time when the world so desperately needs it.