The Great and Holy Week of our Lord's Passion, leading up to the Sunday of Pascha, the Feast of Feasts, is the most important week of the Christian year, during which we commemorate the Death and Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. It is the pre-eminent time in which we re-affirm our Faith, grow closer to God, and re-establish our identity as Christians. Since it is the most important event our year, it also calls for careful and thoughtful preparation. This preparation is of two kinds: practical and spiritual.
Practical preparation for Holy Week includes planning our time, creating the right atmosphere in our homes, and accomplishing tasks related to Holy Week customs.
Planning our time - Block out every evening during Holy Week and all day on Great Friday for Church attendance, and clear things ahead of time at work and school. If we make this our first priority, the Lord will certainly remove all obstacles from our path at work and school in order to make it happen. Try it and you will see. If some things don't get done at work or school, or we fall behind a little bit, it is not the end of the world. Holy Week only comes once a year, and every year may be our last.
Creating the right atmosphere in our homes - The home should feel distinctly different during Holy Week; it should definitely not feel like "business as usual" interrupted by a few Church services. If we turn off the TV, video games, and sound systems of various kinds, and spend our home time in quiet work and quiet time together as we prepare for Great Friday and for the Resurrection, God will give a special grace which will lift us up above the cares of this world. We have to prepare for this special time by sitting down with the family ahead of Holy Week and planning to keep things quiet and focused once Palm Sunday evening comes, explaining to our children especially why we are doing it. Young people like being involved in something special, and they will never forget a real Holy Week kept in quietness, love, and prayer.
Accomplishing our tasks - If there is any cleaning, shopping, baking, sewing, etc, that can be done ahead of time, do it! There are many things, of course, which can only be done the day before or a few days before Pascha, but whatever can be done before Holy Week or early in Holy Week, should!
In the bustle and excitement of preparing for church activities, meals, and visitors, we can easily forget the spiritual essence of Holy Week. During the sixth week of Lent (the week before Holy Week), read the Gospels of our Lord's Passion and Resurrection (Matthew chapters 26 through 28, Mark 14 through 16, Luke 22 through 24, John 13 through 21); spend an hour in examining your conscience and preparing for confession; resolve ahead of time not to lose your focus during Holy Week; resolve that, no matter what happens - difficulties, distractions, obstacles - you will keep praying within yourself and dispose your soul to receive the grace of the Resurrection.
It is important to remember that we do not have to have a certain kind of emotional experience in order to have a "successful" Holy Week. It is normal to look back on especially dear memories of this or that service or event during a previous Holy Week, and want to reproduce a feeling that we had at that time. Sometimes, however, certain feelings don't happen - we're just tired, or irritated, or distracted, or we are disappointed because something is not "done right." But the reality of Christ's Resurrection and its result - that we can live forever with Him in Paradise - is absolutely available to us regardless of good or bad emotions we may experience during the services and events of Holy Week. What matter is not that "things go smoothly" or that we "feel spiritual," but that we participate as best we can, with faith, in order to receive the grace which the Lord absolutely desires to give us.
May Christ our Savior, Who suffered His Life-giving Passion and rose in glory for our salvation, grant each one of us a blessed and joyful Holy Week, this year and every year of our life!