Cardinal Wuerl Marks Good Friday, the Lord’s Passion

“We come to the foot of the cross because we recognize the possibility of our redemption.”

April 06, 2012

Good Friday, the Friday before Easter, commemorates the suffering and death of Jesus Christ on the cross, known as the Passion. Mass is not celebrated in churches on Good Friday but a special liturgy is held in which the Lord’s Passion is read, the cross is venerated and special prayers are offered. Good Friday is part of the Paschal Triduum, which began with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday and will conclude at the Easter Vigil when the Resurrection is celebrated.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, presided at the Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion at the Cathedral of Saint Matthew the Apostle. During the liturgy, the story of Jesus’ betrayal by Judas, condemnation to death and his suffering and death on the cross was read.

Following this dramatic and sorrowful Gospel narrative, Cardinal Wuerl told the faithful in his homily, “In spite of our failures, our sins, our weakness, Jesus not only loves us, but he hung on the cross. He shed his blood unto death for each of us. Now, today, he invites us, as he always has, to come to his cross and see in it our salvation, our forgiveness, our newness. Good Friday brings each one of us to stand at the foot of the cross.”

Cardinal Wuerl went on to say, “What makes it possible for us to see beyond the ruined body of Jesus of Nazareth nailed to the cross to the reality of our redemption and salvation is our faith.

“Only belief nurtured and sustained in our hearts that this broken body is truly the presence of God among us can make any sense out of what otherwise is the agony and irony of the human condition.”

In speaking about the reading (Isaiah 52:13-53:12), the Cardinal talked about the Prophet Isaiah and the lesson that we have to learn before we can kneel in adoration of the crucified Christ. “The reason Jesus was scourged and beaten before the Way of the Cross and the reason he would drag his cross through the streets of Jerusalem was so that when he arrived at Golgotha, as the Prophet Isaiah announced, there would be in him no stately bearing to make us look at him nor appearance that would attract us to him,” Cardinal Wuerl said. “Only with the eyes of faith can we see in the mangled and desecrated body of Jesus the reality of divinity and the saving power of God.”

Cardinal Wuerl told the more than one thousand gathered for the liturgy, “You and I have been greatly blessed. We see with the eyes of faith. We have received the grace to step forward and recognize our Lord on the cross. We also have the courage to come and stand on sacred ground where, in Jesus’ final hours, so few dared to go.”

Following the homily, Cardinal Wuerl led the Adoration of the Holy Cross, during which the people came forward to reverence the cross, recalling Christ’s death for our salvation. The tradition dates back to the late 4th century when St. Helen, the mother of Emperor Constantine, is believed to have discovered a fragment of wood believed to be from Christ’s cross on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. “This Good Friday, we stand at the foot of the cross so that we can, once again, renew in our hearts the meaning of the cross and why Jesus chose to die on it, to show the incredible depth of God’s love for us,” said Cardinal Wuerl in his homily.

The Good Friday liturgy is not a Mass since it does not include the consecration, but there is the distribution of Holy Communion. Hosts that were consecrated at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday were distributed. On Holy Saturday as the Church reflects on Christ’s Passion and Death, Mass is not celebrated until the Easter Vigil Mass in the evening when Christ’s Resurrection is celebrated.

The Archdiocese of Washington is home to over 600,000 Catholics, 140 parishes and 98 Catholic schools, located in Washington, DC, and five Maryland counties: Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s.

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