The holiest week of the church year

Palm Sunday begins the holiest week of the church year, as we rejoice with those who welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem with shouts of “Hosanna!” From there we follow Jesus through the last week of his life, including the last meal he ate with his disciples, his prayer in the garden, arrest, trial and crucifixion. Easter morning dawns bright with the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. 

We have a full week of services (click here for schedule) and also have prepared materials for home use. “Holy Week in a Bag” has a reading and meditation for each day of Holy Week and Easter Day. There are also prayer services for you to use at home for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Vigil. (Check your snail mail. You can also access those materials here.)

As you prepare for Holy Week, I suggest you take a few minutes to set up a sacred space in your home. While some people call it a prayer table or home altar, the most important thing is that you are able to come back each day and develop a “spiritual muscle memory” that will help quiet your mind for prayer. If your children will be joining you, recruit their help in selecting the place and the materials.

First, identify the space. Think simple. Look for a place that is “off the beaten path” in your home, a windowsill, small table, bookshelf, mantle in a room (or part of the room) with the fewest distractions. It is better to have a small place you can leave up than a large or elaborate space that you have to set up each time. If you do have to set up each day, staying simple means it is more likely to make it happen, as does keeping everything in one container. 

Second, collect the items for your sacred space or home altar. Some suggestions to look for:

  • Cloth: a piece of fabric–a napkin, placemat, runner, tablecloth, scarf. Some people like to use cloth that matches the liturgical season—in that case, the liturgical color for Holy Week is dark red.
  • Candle: real or flameless (the later is an especially good option if you have small children). Baptismal candles are a great choice if you know where yours is.
  • Cross: any size, shape or color. Find one in your home, or make one or print one out.
  • Icon or small piece of art that inspires you. Again, find one, make one, or even use your Flat Jesus! 
  • Article from nature: a stone, flower, plant, shell, acorn, etc.  
  • Bible and/or Book of Common Prayer
  • Prayer Card.  Write out a prayer that is meaningful to you, for example the Lord’s Prayer, the Serenity Prayer, a prayer from the packet or from the Book of Common Prayer.
  • Bowl of water to remind you of your baptism. 
  • Paper and pen if you like to write your meditations or prayers.
  • Other objects that hold special meaning: your Holy Week in a Bag Object for the day and/or something that reminds you of a particular person who inspires your faith walk. Be careful not to overwhelm the space, as you can always rotate objects. This allows you to focus more attention on object at a time rather than clutter your sacred space.

Third, assemble your altar and spend a few minutes asking God to make this space, and the time you spend there, holy.

Finally, choose a time (or times) to be in your sacred space each day. Let the regular rhythm of prayer ground you in this turbulent time.  

Consider continuing to use your sacred space after Holy Week, perhaps changing the color of the cloth to white for the Easter Season. Especially as we are gathering online, having a physical space to return to for prayer can be very “grounding.” 

Yours in Christ, Nancy+