Thursday, February 21, 2013

Best and worst of Holy Week?

It's been a bit weird around here this week--a migraine socked me down yesterday and kept me a bit fuzzy around the edges today, so that I had one of those days where I'm trying to catch up on yesterday's chores while not falling too far behind on today's and trying not to think about tomorrow.  Or the weekend. :)

Anyway, that's why I decided to write this post now instead of waiting until we actually get closer to Holy Week, because there's something quintessentially Catholic about being all proud of one's Lent and how well things are going until one looks at the calendar and realizes that Lent started last Wednesday, and that there are still 37 days of it to go (counting until Easter, that is, and not the Easter Vigil).  Sigh.

My questions are simple, and there are two of them:

1. What do you like best about Holy Week?

2. What do you like least about Holy Week?

I'll go first.

1. Holy Thursday.  Definitely.  Oh, I know there's the whole "washing women's feet" liturgical irregularity and bit of silliness, which I rather wish would go completely away, and I'm not even opposed to reverting back to the ancient custom of not washing anybody's feet during Mass on Holy Thursday but going back to the immemorial custom which prevailed from 1570 to 1955 of washing 12 men's feet after Mass on Holy Thursday.  Why can't we get that tradition back, I wonder?  The choir could keep singing "Pange Lingua" quietly and unaccompanied, people could drift out of the Church after a visit to the chapel or altar where the Blessed Sacrament is reposed, and the 12 men could gather in an appropriate place set apart for them, such as one of the front pews, while Father washes their feet.  This would be a quiet and humble thing befitting the original intent of the custom, I believe.  But I digress--the reason I love Holy Thursday is because it is quiet, solemn, focused on the beginning of our Lord's Passion, and the music is wonderful (and those people who complain bitterly about a single word of sung Latin all year either keep quiet or go elsewhere, apparently).  It's not that the Good Friday service isn't also beautiful and moving--it is--or that the Easter Vigil isn't rather amazing--it definitely is.  But I'm drawn to Holy Thursday for reasons I find hard to articulate, except that it feels like the small bit of quiet before the approaching storm of darkness and then the glorious triumph of Light, the last, tiny bit of peace, and the memorial of the indescribable gift of the Holy Eucharist, given by the Man who is also God who knows full well that the words He speaks about His Body "...which will be given up for you..." and His Blood "...which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins..." will be fulfilled in the anguish of a death few of us can really contemplate for long without averting our gaze from what even the angels can hardly bear to see.

2. The Good Friday fasting dilemma.  Okay, there, I said it. :)  But living, as we do, in a non-Catholic country where people don't get Good Friday off from school and work in many places has a strange impact on the Good Friday fast, if you intend to go to Good Friday services (say, to sing at them, beginning with the Stabat Mater during Stations of the Cross 30 minutes before the services start, around 6:30 or 7 p.m., until they end).  I used to be crazy enough to try to keep the "main meal" for after we returned home (and only Thad and I are bound by the fast at this point).  But the result of trying to go all day without food (apart from the two permitted snacks) plus standing and singing on and off for a roughly two-hour period was--not good, shall we say.  So I relocated the "main meal" to be served a bit early, before we leave for church--and that means that in the middle of the afternoon, right when I'd really like to be focused on our Lord's Passion and death on the Cross, I'm cooking, and thinking more than I'd like to about food.

I know, I know.  Gripe gripe gripe.  I should have known what I was getting into when I realized I wasn't called to religious life. :)  But it's weird, a little, because in other, more Catholic countries, and even in more heavily Catholic parts of this country, the Good Friday services are held somewhere between noon and 3 p.m., which fits in nicely with fasting.  When your Good Friday services start about 6:30 and you live about 30 minutes from the church--well, havoc is going to be wreaked on the dinner hour no matter what you do, but skipping Good Friday services for no reason other than to manage the fasting better seems counterproductive to me.

So those are my "best" and "worst" features of Holy Week.  It's your turn now!  What do you love best?  What do you wish could be different?  I'll try to check for comments a bit more frequently on this one to make sure everybody gets a chance to have his or her say.

UPDATE: Sigh.  I always forget that people give up reading and/or commenting on blogs during Lent.  Oh, well.  Maybe I'll repost this one after Easter. :)


eulogos said...

For me the worst feature of holy week is that all the churches have their services at the same time, and I cannot be both and Eastern and a Western Catholic, and attend the Protestant Anglican service with my husband as well. I have to choose. And I have always hated choosing. I want it all!
I don't think it is good to be so divided, I really don't. But that's where I am right now.

priest's wife said...

Susan- maybe you could talk to the parishes for next year- they should want to have as many worshipers as possible...

Pat said...

Palm Sunday. I never go. I can't. The reading of the passion is where all the would-be actors get up and strut their stuff. And while I don't necessarily want to see the people in the pews waiving stones and sticks, the weak sounds of "crucify him....crucify him" are equally depressing. Is the Passion ever sung or chanted? Now, THAT would be a moving religious experience.