by Cristina Montes.
Year after year, our family has been celebrating Holy Week the same way for as long as I can remember. After attending the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, we have a special dinner and then do the Visita Iglesia, with ice-cold sago’t gulaman waiting for us when we arrive home. As far as I remember, this yearly tradition originated from my paternal grandmother, who also served it to my father’s family after Visita Iglesia, before the clock struck 12 to signal the start of the Good Friday fast.
On Good Friday, we fast and abstain together with the rest of the Catholic world. But we also take the allowed one full meal together as a family, and it is always something special. We also attend the Good Friday services and do the Way of the Cross. In the evening of Black Saturday, we have another special dinner, then attend the Easter Vigil as a family, then have post-Mass cocktails.
Conversations during the meals often revolve around reminiscences of Holy Week’s past: how my father’s family used to visit 14 churches instead of just seven…how my mom used to be an angel for the Easter Salubong when she was a little girl…the year when we attended an Easter Salubong where the festive rockets were launched out of time…funny things happening during the skits that were inserted in Holy Week liturgies at our former parishes…
Holy Week-appropriate movies are also yearly staples: usually Franco Zeferelli’s Jesus of Nazareth or Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ, although we have recently expanded our range of selections to include The Ten Commandments and movies about the lives of saints.
On Easter Sunday, we watch the Pope deliver his Urbi et Orbi message and his blessing which carries with it an indulgence even for those who watch or listen to the blessing being broadcast on TV or over the radio.
These Holy Week traditions are very much a part of me that I kept them even during the year I was living abroad — except the sago’t gulaman, since there was no Filipino goods store in Pamplona, Spain at that time. One of my favourite memories from my stay in Spain was doing the Visita Iglesia on foot on Holy Thursday in the old part of Pamplona.
Sometimes we do try new practices as we learn more age-old traditions that we did not know about before. For example, two years ago, I joined the parish Santo Entierro procession. I hope I can join again this year, and add participation in the Santo Entierro procession to the traditions of my own.
It makes a lot of sense to keep Holy Week traditions, since Holy Week — especially the Triduum — is all about remembering those events in the past that put the present in touch with eternity. Holy Week traditions bind us not just with our immediate families, but with the entire Catholic Church, way back from the first Christians in Jerusalem up to all our brothers and sisters in the faith scattered now throughout the world. It is through keeping these Holy Week traditions that faith is transmitted from one generation to another. Growing up with these traditions taught me, through tangible details, that this is our faith, that this is what we believe in.
One of the things I pray for every year as we go about our Holy Week devotions is that families all over the world will keep Holy Week traditions every year. These traditions, for me, have been an anchor in a world of constant flux. I intend to keep them every year of my life.