Palm Sunday, Holy Week to shift to family home celebrations like the early church

HSBC Philippines
Catholic Palm sunday
Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle blesses the palms with holy water at the start of Palm Sunday Mass at the Manila Cathedral, March 23, 2018. ROY LAGARDE for CBCP News.

As Palm Sunday signals the start of the observance of Holy Week around the world, the Catholic Church issued recommendations on how to keep the spirit of the annual Lenten Season despite global health measures for social distancing and community quarantine to stop the spread of coronavirus disease.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) issued circulars for recommendations on the Holy Week celebrations ahead of Palm Sunday today, April 5, 2020.

The annual celebration of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is considered the highlight of the whole liturgical year in the church and normally gathers Filipinos to assemble in festive celebrations. This year’s observance will, however, be vastly different from the usual massive number of gatherings in and around churches across the Philippines.

The 40-day Lenten Season which began during Ash Wednesday on February 26 already began setting the different ways of celebrating the Holy Mass.

The newer CBCP circulars provide additional measures to keep the faithful safe from the spread of COVID-19.

“In this time of Intense Quarantine due to the spread of the COVID-19, almost everything and everyone is affected. Our social, economic and religious life are painfully hit by the ‘social distancing’ that is a necessity this time of pandemic to stem the transmission of the virus,” the CBCP Circular says.

CBCP instructed its bishops and diocesan administrators to implement the new measures that shift the Holy Week celebrations to home churches and the use of media broadcasts and live streaming to guide the family.

“The importance of the domestic/family church stands out during this time. Like the early Church which was a “Domus Ecclesiae” a domestic/family church our families will come together to celebrate the great mysteries of our faith uniting themselves with the local Church through the celebrations transmitted through internet, tv or radio,” says CBCP.

In line with this, the CBCP encouraged churches to live stream their celebrations. Here is Online Mass list.

List of online Masses

This Palm Sunday, the CBCP gave two options for churches:

A. For the blessing of Palms, the faithful who will be following the celebration on TV can hold their palm branches (or any available branch of leaves) while the prayer of blessing of Palms is prayed by the Presider. In this case, those who follow the celebration on TV, there is no need for Holy Water to bless the Palm branches.

B. After the Mass the presider can go around the streets of the parish at a previously announced time, to bless the palms without using Holy Water, of the faithful who wait in front of their homes. The priest makes the sign of the cross as he passes through the streets. The blessing with Holy Water might cause commotion. A loud speaker may be used to make people aware that the priest is passing by. The Lector also reads the Passion Narrative along the way. All of these must be done with only two to three ministers to accompany the priests. This is to avoid gathering of people.

On Holy Thursday, these are the following recommendations:

A. Chrism Mass

Each Local Ordinary needs to discern on the day and the place of the Chrism Mass. The decision must be done considering the recommendations of the Civil and Health authorities.

The celebration will be simplified because of the absence of the faithful, the choir and other lay ministers. Only the clergy will be allowed to be inside the Cathedral/church, observing social distance, hygiene and sanitation of the space for the liturgical celebration.

The faithful can follow the celebration through the internet, TV or radio.

B. Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper

The Explanatory rite of the “Washing of the Feet” may be omitted or simplified (reduced number of persons whose feet are washed). The altar of repose will be set in the sacristy, a simple tabernacle where the Blessed Sacrament may be reposed.

There is an option that after the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, without the faithful, the priest with only two or three ministers, will carry the Blessed Sacrament in a Ciborium with a humeral veil, rides on a pickup vehicle and goes to all the streets within the parish. This becomes the Visita Iglesias of the faithful this year.

People with lighted candles wait in front of their homes.
Someone may read repeatedly the Gospel Narrative of the Last Supper, during the procession.

For the Good Friday Veneration of the Cross, these are the guidelines:

We offer our faithful reflections on the Passion of the Lord through TV, internet, and radio, before the Celebration of the Veneration of the Cross.
Please refer to our previous instructions on the proper way of veneration of the Cross.

After the Commemoration of the Lord’s Passion, without the faithful, the presider in red cope or red stole over a surplice and cassock, rides a pickup vehicle as he carries a Crucifix and goes to all the streets of the parish.
People with lighted candles wait in front of their homes to venerate the Cross by kneeling down.

For the Easter Vigil:

We celebrate the Easter vigil following the liturgy prescribed in the Roman Missal. One may reduce the number of readings as allowed by the Missal. We celebrate this Vigil as the Mother of all Vigils, leading our people to greater hope in the victory of Risen Lord who conquered sin and death. In the experience of the pandemic, the Resurrection of the Lord is the certainty of our victory.

The number of needed ministers needs to be regulated also for this celebration, including the choir. If there will be Baptism, only the parents and God-parents should be inside the Church.

After the Easter Vigil Celebration, without the faithful, the presider with humeral veil, rides on a pick up carrying the Blessed Sacrament in monstrance, goes around the parish.

The parishioners with lighted candles may bring at the door or windows of their homes the statue of the Blessed Mother. This becomes the Salubong of the parish this year.

The CBCP also highlighted the need to continue its care for the poor, instructing parishes to create programs and systems “that will translate the effects of the Celebrations of the Paschal Triduum in our care for the poor among us.”

HAVE A BLESSED PALM SUNDAY AND PRAYERFUL HOLY WEEK! Tell us how you are celebrating Holy Week this year?

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Aurora Quadra-Balibay
Angie is a self-confessed reformed news critic who vows she has finally found infinite value in delivering the good news. She teaches students of all ages how to make the important interesting for audiences across media platforms.