Cardinal Wuerl Celebrates Easter Masses and Reflects on the Joy of Christ’s Resurrection
Sunday, April 16, 2017
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, celebrated Easter Masses at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, marking the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
Darkness set in on Good Friday when Jesus suffered and died on the cross – a world in darkness without Christ. At the Easter Vigil on Saturday, April 15, in an ancient rite, a fire was lit on the steps of the cathedral to symbolize the resurrection of Christ, the light of the world. The cardinal blessed the paschal candle, and light was passed through the congregation until the entire church was slowly illuminated with candles held by the members of the congregation. As darkness and death were overcome with light and new life, the Exsultet (Easter proclamation) was sung. The same liturgy unfolded in parishes throughout the archdiocese as the resurrection of Christ was proclaimed.
The cardinal spoke in his homily about the dark church and the beauty of the magnificent cathedral becoming more evident as the darkness dissipated. “This is the Liturgy’s way of telling us that the kingdom of God breaking into our world can actually be made visible in the Church if enough of us allow the light of Christ to shine through us,” said the cardinal, who added that this is how the kingdom of God comes to be in us.
On this evening in the St. Matthew’s Cathedral parish, there were a total of 26 individuals welcomed into full communion in the Catholic Church, either as catechumens (who were newly baptized), or as candidates (already-baptized Christians who received Eucharist and Confirmation), or as Catholics completing their sacraments of initiation. Across the Archdiocese of Washington, more than 1,100 adults, teens and children were welcomed into the Catholic Church this year. Addressing the catechumens and candidates present, he said, “Tonight the words, ‘Christ is risen, Christ is truly risen. Alleluia, Alleluia!’ take on special significance for you because tonight as a result of these sacraments not only is Christ risen, but you are risen in him and his new life as part of his new creation.”
On Easter Sunday, at the cathedral, Cardinal Wuerl spoke before a standing room only crowd that packed the pews and the aisles. The cardinal began his homily by referencing the Holy Father’s Easter message, saying that today, throughout the world, the Church echoes once again the news of the first disciples, “Christ is risen! Christ is truly Risen!” He spoke of how our faith is not without solid foundation, and how there are visible and tangible realities that support our faith and referenced a recent National Geographic Explorer documentary about the unsealing of Christ’s tomb for the first time in 500 years. The tomb where Jesus’ body rested after being taken down from the cross became a place of pilgrimage for disciples of Jesus, because it offered the physical testimony that it was empty.
In addition to the empty tomb though, we have witnesses who saw Jesus die on the cross but days and weeks later also spoke to him, touched his hands, ate with him, heard his voice, looked into his eyes and were reassured that he had risen from the dead. Their narrative has been meticulously preserved. “All the successors to the apostles so carefully guarded the accounts and so thoughtfully made provision that they be written down and affirmed under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. All of this was done with such precision and care so that you and I today are able to place our faith, our trust, our confidence in the words of the Scripture in the living witness of the Church,” said the cardinal. “That witness continues today. That is why you and I are here. We come to hear the voice of testimony that has continued in Christ’s Church. We also come to be a part of that continuous proclamation that Christ is Risen, Christ is truly risen.”
“We come here because of our faith that is sustained by the realization of the empty tomb and the voice of witnesses who saw Jesus alive. But you and I come here for another reason as well. In his Resurrection Jesus offers us a share in that everlasting life,” said the cardinal. As he concluded his homily, he reminded the faithful that in the Eucharistic liturgy, when we remember the death and Resurrection of Christ, we become a part of it. “Today the words, ‘Christ is risen, Christ is truly risen. Alleluia, Alleluia!’ take on special significance for us, because today as a result of the Eucharist not only is Christ risen, but he is risen in us.”
Following the Mass at St. Matthew’s Cathedral, Cardinal Wuerl celebrated the noon Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, which was carried live on The Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) and The Catholic Channel on SiriusXM Satellite Radio.
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The Archdiocese of Washington is home to over 620,000 Catholics, 139 parishes and 95 Catholic schools, located in Washington, DC, and five Maryland counties: Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s.