January 19, 2021

Holy Monday 2017: House Cleaning

Brooms. Photo by Ginny

Holy Monday 2017

During the first three days of Holy Week, Easter housecleaning takes place in many Catholic communities. This is more than just another secular custom. Its purpose is to prepare the house for the blessing by the priest on Holy Saturday, and is an outward sign of the inner newness of soul of the family. This meaning should be made clear to the children so that they may help prepare the house for the Church’s blessing. By Wednesday of Holy Week the cleaning should be finished, and the remainder of the week should be considered as semi-holidays.

• From Catholic Culture

• • •

We are planning on making a move in the near future, if God wills. We are not going to leave the town we live in, but it is the right time for us to live in a different kind of house for the next season of our life.

That means we’re busy cleaning, decluttering, getting rid of some possessions and putting others in storage, having necessary repairs made and getting ready for an inspection. It’s house cleaning time at the Mercer’s.

Most of us in the northern climes have some tradition of spring cleaning, when we open the windows to let in the fresh air and put a little extra elbow grease toward getting the dust and dirt out of those corners and cubby holes that we’ve neglected all winter.

In some traditions of keeping the Church Year, however, it’s more than that. It is time to get ready for the Easter celebration! In partnership with our Jewish friends, who traditionally swept the house clean for Passover, we prepare ourselves and our environment to participate in our great day of deliverance.

This year, for us, it also marks the end of a season of life (if we’re fortunate enough to actually sell the house and get moved).

For example, last week I threw away almost forty years worth of files that contained notes from Bible college and seminary, sermons from the churches where I’ve served, articles I’ve copied, and studies I’ve led. I had at least one file on every book of the Bible. I had ministry files, illustration files, mission trip files — all the kinds of files a pastor keeps — at least one like I was that thought it imprudent to ever throw anything away. Who knows when I might need to look back on that? Turns out they have sat in file for the past twelve years and I don’t think I’ve opened one of its drawers more than two or three times during that span.

But there it went — the material evidence of my ministerial life — into the trash can, out to the curb, picked up by the garbage truck and now buried in the landfill.

Well, there is other material evidence of my ministerial life: my books. When I left the church and came home, I brought with me 100 boxes of books. Over the years I’ve weeded out a bunch of them, given many away, and sold some. Of course, I’ve bought some too. (I’m not dead yet, you know!) I reckon I’ve cut down to maybe 50 or 60 boxes.

Guess what. If we move, they come with us. So I’ve been boxing up books lately too. I carried about 20 boxes of books and related things to the storage unit yesterday. And we have lots of stairs, folks. I’m flat out pooped today. Just think, if it wasn’t for Kindle, I’d have another box or two to look forward to.

We have gotten through a lot of the easy stuff, but this is about to get serious very soon. The attic. The big under-the-stairs closet. The basement. If a couple of days go by and you don’t hear from me, I’m buried under a big pile of stuff in one of those three locations.

And all this is just preparation for the move itself. Can’t wait…

The quote above says that Holy Week cleaning is designed to be “an outward sign of the inner newness of soul of the family.” So maybe I’ll get a little holiness out of all this cleaning and downsizing.

I wouldn’t count on it. It’s more likely “an outward sign of the physiological decay of this old man” who doesn’t like carrying books around so much anymore.

We’ll keep you posted. May God give us all a renewed sense of cleansing and renewal during this Holy Week. And if you hear muffled cries coming from the big under-the-stairs closet, send for help.

• • •

Photo by Ginny at Flickr. Creative Commons License


  1. I’ve been slowly paring down my own theology collection for over 10 years. I was an out-of-control book nerd – had over 4 book cases full of them. Now, after the latest purge, I have pared down to just four shelves – mostly focusing on Christology, C S Lewis, Jacques Ellul, Phyllis Tickle’s prayer anthologies, doubt, and evolutionary creationism.

    One day, when I’m finally spiritual, I’ll pare down my Tolkien and D&D shelves. 😉

    • This latest purge came about due to our applying the KonMari method (Google it) to this year’s spring cleaning.

      • How many people bought Marie Kondo’s book and then threw it in with the rest of the pile?

        I note on Amazon the book itself, a journal published to accompany the book, another book by Kondo for people who are really really into tidying up, an e-book summary of the original book for those who either can’t read or have the attention span of a gnat, a Spanish edition, a book by another author detailing the life lessons learned by reading Kondo’s book, and not even close to being lastly, a book by someone telling us not to care about tidying up!

        I would say Kondo is not just tidying up, she’s cleaning up! BWAHAHAHAHA…

    • >> One day, when I’m finally spiritual, I’ll pare down my Tolkien and D&D shelves.

      Out of all you mention, I hope Tolkien is the last one standing, tho Phyllis Tickle would be a good companion for him. The rest maybe a record of how we got into this pickle.

    • I can give you an address for those D&D materials…

      • You can have my d20 library when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers. 😉

        • I think Stephen should roll a d20 to see if he gets your d20 library. Not sure what the “to hit” is, but if he rolls a 1, look out…

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        I can give you an address for those D&D materials…

        Same here.

        Old School since January 1976 AKA three little garage-published books of Gygax’s fragmentary scribble-notes plus Greyhawk, with no written clues as to how they all fit together. Burgess Shale period of gaming, where with NO official backgrounds or “how tos” every DM homebrewed his own campaign and mechanics, the variety and sheer strangeness (including weird crossovers) have never been surpassed.

        • If figures that in the end they would finally engineer all the imagination out of the game.

          I gather from the comments that you D&D folks were never possessed by Satan. After 30 years of listening to rock’n’roll neither am I. I hate to disparage anyone’s hard won reputation but I’m beginning to think Jack Chick was lying to us!

          • You really needed the imagination back then, because the rules were darn near indecipherable. 😛

            And as far as demonic possession via D&D goes… I won’t say I don’t have my problems with faith and sanctification, but they’re the same problems I had after I gave up D&D at my conversion, and they’re the problems I’ve always dealt with. So unless i missed out on some hidden Will save vs. Evil Influences, I’d guess the problem just lies with me. 😉

          • If figures that in the end they would finally engineer all the imagination out of the game.

            Compared to the horror that was 3.5e.

            So lemme get this straight. You memorize spells. You cast that spell. Then you have to sleep to do it again.


            • Hey! Don’t speak ill of my favorite edition, heretic! 🙂

              But I agree, Vancian spellcasting is dumb. I always prefer to use either spellbound rules or third party spell rules where possible.

          • Some of my best times in college were playing D&D in the dorm on a Friday or Saturday night. Though I’m not sure any of us were Christians then, I know at least two of us that are now.

            After marrying, one of my sisters-in-law )strong Christian) asked me what I felt about D&D “now”, after having become a Christian. I told her that it was my opinion that D&D isn’t a problem, that people susceptible for letting it “become a problem” no doubt have other issues going on in their lives. I think that ultimately sunk in.

  2. CM, in our neck of the woods, recyclables include metal, plastic, cardboard, and PAPER (but, unfortunately, no longer glass). Your forty years of paper files could probably have saved a tree or two if you hadn’t sent them to the landfill instead. Not to worry, though, I’m pretty sure God forgives you. Go and sin no more.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      “In our neck of the woods”, paper recycling was a victim of its own success. So successful the bottom fell out of scrap paper prices. Now they not only don’t pay for it, you have to pay them to take it away.

  3. I hear you on the ‘this season is over’ aspect. You didn’t come out and say ‘downsizing’ so I won’t call it that either. Our different life seasons produce growth and change (hopefully for the better), though they can be difficult to navigate and get through, no matter how positive and productive.

    It’s good for our children to see, as this is an example of how to not fight the changes and the aging, but to see it for simply what it is….life!

    Good for you and your wife. Books are the hardest (understatement) thing for me to eliminate, but I’m trying even now to keep it under control. My poor husband–so patient with that aspect….I don’t need/want jewelry, just books…and I’m very picky!

    Going to have to google the konmari method!

  4. Yes, books are food.

    But one can be, well, overweight I suppose.

    I’m looking at a relocation myself in the next two years so I want that to go as smoothly as possible. I am prepping myself for a major book purge of Stalinist proportions. If it can’t go on the shelves it goes out the door.. I will probably fail but it will be a noble effort.

  5. Books are food. When I was at my most overweight, I had hundreds of books. As I started losing weight, I lost all my books. Learning to read directly contributed to my childhood obesity, because when you are a lonely kid who has no friends close by and siblings are a little too young to relate, you retreat into books, night after night, only surfacing to grab more soda or ice cream or dinner. Now, I can barely read any book. I think my depression acted as a focus towards whatever ADD I may have, and as that depression lifts, I can’t concentrate (or care enough) to read.

  6. I haven’t bought a new book in years. I have several bookcases full of books, but no boxes of them. I need to weed out some of the books I have, but this will be a cooperative effort involving my wife, since many of the books are hers, or might as well be. New books are too expensive for us, and we are not willing to join the discount used-book market online, since we are both partial Luddites, and feel uncomfortable doing anything but absolutely necessary business online. I borrow books from the library sometimes, which is where my wife gets the mystery novels she goes through each week; the rest of the time, I revisit books that have become old friends to me. I’m comfortable with my small circle of book-friends.

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