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Church@Home: Observing Holy Week in the Time of the Pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic is upending our way of life. As the world’s governments put their respective countries and cities under lockdown to contain the spread of the virus, this crisis is not only disrupting economies, it is changing the ways we live, work, play and even the way we worship. The virus has taken a toll on religious gatherings around the world, sparing none. It has, however, locked us in and brought us closer together as families. The family is the renewed community as we all unlearn to celebrate our holy days at home.

Although I have heard similar thoughts and stories from friends of different faiths, I can only speak to my experience as a Christian and hope all see similarities in our family and our faith.

Let’s state the obvious: Holy Week 2020 will be significantly different from the standard Holy week celebration for both the Christian Communities and our individual homes. With social distancing orders, congregating with family members at church or at home is strictly prohibited. This situation clearly gives us time to reflect on the essence of Holy Week and Easter.

By far, Holy Week is the most celebrated time in Christianity. Outside Christmas, Holy Week, Good Friday, and Easter are the most attended and celebrated time in the Church calendar. Believers gather far and wide. Those who actively participate in their faith or practice sparring, will make extra effort to attend the celebration at their chosen congregations. One can see this increased volume of attendees because parking spaces and pew spaces are in high demand. For the most part, it’s standing room only in most churches.

Through Christ’s suffering and death, the faithful are called “Christians”. According to St. Paul in his book of The Acts of the Apostles, followers of Christ were originally called people of “The Way”.  The original believers practiced their faith privately to avoid persecution from Saul’s old ways and his ilk of authority figures. Often punished with death by stoning or feed to ravenous animals, they held steadfastly to their belief and faith in Christ, and much like COVID-19, virally changed the world. Building off their faith, the church absorbed most of the living world. East to west, churches sprung up and more people came to believe in “The Way”. 

For the last 2000 years, the faithful has grown together. But now, conversely, we’re currently returning back to form. We’re returning back to practicing our faith in seclusion, in our own homes, avoiding the persecution of COVID–19. We’re restoring our respective “Domestic Church”, the church where it all started for all of us, believers: THE CHURCH@HOME.

According to the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church: “The family, is so to speak, the domestic church.” (Lumen Gentium #11) This means that it is in the context of the family that we first learn who God is and to prayerfully seek His will for us.

Much like the current education system is asking us to “home school”, we too must “home church”. Around the home, amongst family, we talk openly about the presence of God in the joys and sorrows of our lives especially at this time. We unburden the stresses and worries of today and tomorrow through communal family prayer. If you’d like to entertain company, why not celebrate Holy Week via live-stream or video conferencing tools, like Facetime, Hangouts, Skype, and MS Teams?

In the Gospel of John, we find Christ makes several references to suffering for “the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified.” We recall that miracles are the outcome each time Christ makes this assertion, for example: gifting the blind man his sight, and raising Lazarus from the dead. In this time of the pandemic, it’s fitting that we offer up our sacrifices and sufferings for the glory of God.

Through our baptismal adoption into Christ’s family, let us claim God’s promise in Genesis — “He saw everything that he had made, and indeed it was very good.” Everything that God has made is GOOD. Our shared experience through the pandemic is GOOD and will give glory to God, that Jesus Christ may be glorified. That in both our abundance and our scarcity, we give Glory to God.

Let us close with my favorite bible passage that epitomizes our situation:

The Lord giveth, and the Lord has taketh away; blessed be the name of the Lord.

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