Jesus’ Suffering and Death on the Cross Remembered on Good Friday with Liturgies of the Lord’s Passion and Devotional Processions

Cardinal Wuerl Marks Good Friday with Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion at Cathedral

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Christians around the world solemnly commemorated Good Friday, the day when Jesus suffered and died on the cross for human salvation. Catholics traditionally mark the day with fasting, penance and reflection on Jesus’ loving sacrifice. Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington participated in a Via Crucis (“Way of the Cross”) procession on Friday morning as it made its way around Capitol Hill. Later in the day, the cardinal presided over the liturgy of the Lord’s Passion at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington.

“The cross which stands in the very center of today and dominates our vision, our thoughts, our imagination and this very liturgy is a living symbol – a sign of God’s all embracing love for us,” said Cardinal Wuerl as he began his homily.

While we may not deliberately set out to offend God, the cardinal said, we often find ourselves failing to do the good things we want to do. “Today the Church invites us to the foot of the cross. We know that in spite of ourselves and everything that we do, that we live in a world of loving forgiveness thanks to the cross.”

“We come to the foot of the cross because we recognize what Jesus endured for us. We realize the possibility of our redemption, a redemption we hope to feel and experience everyday. In spite of our failures, our sins, our weakness, Jesus not only loves us, but he hung on the cross for each one us. He shed his blood unto death not for humanity in the abstract, but for each one of us—you and me today in this cathedral church.”

None of us should ever be hesitant to ask for both the faith to believe in the redemption that is ours and the forgiveness that God’s love extends to you and to me, said the cardinal. Christ’s redemptive, forgiving, compassionate power was not any less because he hung on the cross and did not receive a stately bearing, but was spurned. We had to learn this lesson before kneeling before Christ, the cardinal said.

We are not abstractions, we are the reason he came, the cardinal continued. “Even with our bruises, stains and failures, Jesus looks at us and sees so much more. Our consolation today is not in our claim to be perfect, but rather in the knowledge that even in our failure, Jesus loves us.”

Cardinal Wuerl concluded the homily saying, “Standing at the foot of the cross, today and every day, we hear those words that announced what Jesus came to accomplish – our ransom from sin, our ransom from failure, from anything that would keep us from being close to God. When we come today to the cross and reverence it with love and faith, let us quietly repeat in our heart, “Lord, thank you.” he said. “Thank you for giving me the faith to recognize your love for me.”

Following the homily, Cardinal Wuerl led the Adoration of the Holy Cross. The tradition of coming forward to reverence the cross dates back to the late 4th century when St. Helen, the mother of Emperor Constantine, discovered a fragment of wood believed to be from Christ’s cross on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The faithful came forward to reverence the cross in a sign of respect.

Masses are not celebrated in Catholic Churches on Good Friday. The liturgy did not include the consecration, and hosts that were consecrated at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday were distributed to the faithful at communion. Keeping with the somber tone of the day, the liturgy ended solemnly with liturgical ministers and the cardinal processing out of the sanctuary in silence.

Later in the afternoon, Cardinal Wuerl was joined by Bishop Mario Dorsonville, auxiliary bishop of Washington as they greeted pilgrims who participated in the Via Crucis procession as they arrived at the cathedral for the liturgy and veneration of the cross in Spanish. Several such processions take place within the archdiocese on Good Friday; the procession from Our Lady Queen of the Americas parish in Washington draws several hundred Latino Catholics, young and old, who make their way down Connecticut Avenue approximately one mile to St. Matthew’s for the Spanish liturgy.

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.