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It’s a first in world history: an online Holy Week for millions of people, even in Vatican City, due to the coronavirus pandemic. Rappler presents a series of reflections to help you, our reader, enter the spirit of Holy Week even in quarantine.
Holy Thursday Mass without washing of the feet? Holy Thursday without the altar of repose and succeeding Visita Iglesia? Holy Thursday without the parishioners? Has it ever happened before?
I was puzzled, then afraid. I was shocked when some bishops issued directives following those of the Department of Health and local government units. I had a burden in my conscience. Will I decree it too as a bishop?
No public Mass during Lent? No Holy Communion for the people who are asking for healing and protection from sickness and death? Are we to cave in to Masses without the parishioners because of an unseen virus? Do we worship God only when it is peaceful and safe? Good-weather Catholics?
Has this happened before?
It has indeed happened before. It was part of the instructions the Lord gave to Moses and Aaron for the Israelites. The Lord told them to stay home and just to sprinkle the blood of the lamb on the doorposts and lintel. When the Lord passes by to strike down the firstborn in Egypt and He sees the blood on the doorposts, no destruction will come upon the household; but stay inside.
Passover was celebrated inside the house with the family, not in the neighborhood, village, or town; not even with the priests. All that God asked was for them to have faith that Lord Himself will save them. They will not save themselves. God will do that; not them.
Our situation now shakes our faith. Do we really have faith in God or do we just have faith in our own faith? Is it really faith in God or faith in our rites and practices? Is it really faith in the mighty action of God or faith in our own man-made actions?
Tonight we are unable to wash the feet; unable to decorate the altar of repose; unable to organize the vigil of adorers; unable to practice the choir and the servers; unable to burn incense; unable to light the church with mesmerizing candles. We are unable to gather the people and jam-pack the church.
When we are unable to do these, God will continue to gently bless and smoothly touch us. It is in God, not on our pious acts and strict rubrics, with whom we must have faith. Faith in God? Or faith in your faith?
This quarantine invites us to celebrate Passover as God originally commanded it. Stay inside. Let God be God as He passes by.
Tonight, there will be no washing of the feet in the church although there has been lots of washing of the hands at home the past weeks.
What did the Lord really do? The Lord removed His outer garments. Then knelt down. Then poured water on the disciples’ feet.
God laid down his clothes of glory. God put on the apron of humanity. God knelt down like a slave. God poured not water but His blood to wash our sins away. In doing this what did the Lord say actually?
We worship best when we allow Him to wash us; just give Him a chance to serve you. Holy Week is not about remembering what our ancestors used to do during these days and doing them all over again. Holy Week is remembering what God has done for us. Holy Week does not tell us what to do. Holy Week proclaims what God has done for us.
We are unable to dress up our centuries-old santos and mount them in flower-decked carrozas; unable to make the Way of the Cross in 14 churches; unable to put up the canopy for the Blessed Sacrament procession; unable to go to confession – the nostalgic litany of “unables” is almost unlimited.
Only one thing the Lord asks us: “Let me serve you. Let me love you.” Holy Week is not about you so convinced that you love the Lord. Holy Week is about you being convinced that God really loves you beyond measure; no ifs, no buts; sometimes we get too busy with the rituals, we miss the simple message: God loves us.
The core of our faith is memory. Each time we do it in His memory, the past becomes present. When we say “This is my Body… this is my Blood,” the bread and wine become His Body and Blood. This is what Saint Paul to the Corinthians tells us to do – remember what He did. Holy Thursday is really an exercise of remembering.
We are not what we do. Work does not give identity. We are who we are. Being is more important than doing. With so many things we think we must do, there is hardly a time to listen to God and see His marvelous deeds. “My yoke is easy and my burden is light,” said the Lord; but we have made Holy Week tiresome and expensive and hectic.
Holy Thursday is best when we do nothing and focus on what God has done and what God continues to do in the world and in each one. “Be still and know that I am God.” – Rappler.com
Archbishop Socrates Villegas heads the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan in Pangasinan. He is former president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.
Here are other Reflections:
- [REFLECTIONS] Glimpses of God’s presence amid a pandemic
- [REFLECTIONS] Turning the coronavirus crisis into opportunity
- [REFLECTIONS] Don’t get tired of waving your palms
- [REFLECTIONS] Look out for the loneliest amid the pandemic – Pope Francis
- [REFLECTIONS] When no one will say ‘I am sick’
- [REFLECTIONS] Faith in the risen Jesus amid the coronavirus
- [REFLECTIONS] Business temporarily closed: Jesus, what now?
- [REFLECTIONS] Why do we suffer?
- [REFLECTIONS] We need to think and re-think our theology
- [REFLECTIONS] Holy Week and COVID-19: Embracing uncertainty