Inside an empty Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, Archbishop William E. Lori and a handful of liturgical ministers participate in the April 10 Good Friday Celebration of the Lord’s Passion. (Kevin J. Parks/ CR Staff)
Archbishop William E. Lori celebrated Holy Thursday and Good Friday liturgies in the eerily empty Cathedral of Mary our Queen in Homeland in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
With travel restricted in Maryland and churches closed for public Masses, the archbishop opened the April 9 Mass of the Lord’s Supper noting that while we cannot gather together in the cathedral, the faithful were united in viewing the livestream of the service. More than 5,100 viewed the Mass on YouTube and thousands more viewed the stream on Facebook.
More than a dozen other parishes in the archdiocese offered similar livestreamed Masses for Holy Thursday and Good Friday as priests celebrated liturgies without the presence of the faithful.
The archbishop noted that Holy Thursday marks two important events in the church – the institution of the Eucharist and the institution of the priesthood.
In his homily Holy Thursday, Archbishop Lori said that revolutionary movements have come and gone in the course of history. They are often led by those who know the art of attracting others to their cause. That includes “the art of capturing public opinion but also the art of causing fear and creating chaos. Such leaders can be manipulative, relentless and ruthless in the pursuit of their goals.”
He contrasted those revolutions with Jesus’ gathering with his Apostles in the Upper Room, where the Lord launches the “ultimate revolution … a revolution that will bring about the decisive triumph of divine grace over sin, of divine love over human hatred, of life over death. This is the pivotal moment, the deciding hour, of human history itself.”
Jesus did this without fiery speeches or manipulation of public opinion, but through the meek and mild celebration of the Passover feast that will transform it forever.
“Scripture says of Jesus: ‘He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end,’” the archbishop said. “Friends, even in this difficult time – perhaps especially in this difficult time – Jesus claims us as his own and he loves us to the very end
When Jesus stooped to wash his disciples’ feet, he personified an utterly generous and self-giving love.
“Tomorrow, when you listen reverently to the account of Jesus’ suffering and death, remember that you belong to Jesus as the result of your baptism; remember that Jesus loved you to the very end; that he poured out his life for you; remember, too, those who in these days practice a heroic love, and in God’s grace, may we strive to love and serve those most in need … love to the end,” the archbishop said.
The Lord accompanies us through every moment of our lives through the Eucharist, and it has been that way since the very beginning at the Last Supper.
“When we gather for Eucharist, we do not merely recall what Jesus did to save us. Rather, Jesus himself, and his sacrifice of love become present anew for us, for our benefit, to help us in the present moment and in every circumstance of life, until that final moment when we go home to God,” Archbishop Lori said.
“These days, when we are unable to open our churches due to the pandemic, we hunger and thirst for the Eucharist; we long to receive the Lord’s Body and Blood. Let us humbly ask to be spiritually united with Jesus until that day – and may it be soon – when we can be together for holy Mass and receive this most holy sacrament.”
He said he hoped that this temporary absence would prompt Catholics to love the Mass more dearly. He encouraged viewers of the Mass to give thanks and pray for their priests “whose very lives are defined by the Eucharist.”
In difficult times like we are experiencing these days, it may be difficult to focus on much more than our immediate problems, the archbishop said. “Yet, if day by day we entrust our lives to the eucharistic Lord, and resolve to walk with him as he walks with us, we will discover amid life’s problems, suffering, misunderstanding, and chaos, that vision of life eternal in heaven, where Christ is seated at God’s right hand.”
The traditional washing of the feet at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper was omitted, per guidelines from the Vatican and the archdiocese. The Mass ended with a solemn procession without music.
The Good Friday Service of the Lord’s Passion was similarly celebrated without the presence of the faithful and livestreamed with nearly 7,000 viewers on YouTube.
The liturgy – which is not a Mass, as Good Friday is the only day of the liturgical year when Mass is not celebrated – included the reading of the Passion, with the parts of the Gospel account of Christ’s Passion proclaimed by Deacon Fritz Bauerschmidt, with Archbishop Lori reading the part of Jesus, and other parts read by Father Kevin Ewing, associate pastor of the cathedral parish.
In his homily, the archbishop focused on the belief that at baptism, all Christians are called to be prophet, priest and king.
“Does baptism in fact make us prophets, priests, and kings, like Jesus? Good Friday answers that question for us, for in this solemn liturgy, we encounter Christ at the very hour of his passion and death, at the very hour when he is revealed as prophet, priest, and king,” Archbishop Lori said.
He said that Jesus is a prophet who is more than a prophet. A prophet’s vocation is to foretell the future and to be one who reveals God’s will. Jesus fulfilled the prophesy of Isaiah, whose passion and death are commemorated on Good Friday.
“Proclaiming the Good News, Jesus not only spoke on behalf of God; rather, he was and he is the living Word of God, the Word made flesh. Likewise, our Savior not only revealed the Father’s saving will; Jesus embraced his will and accomplished it, by laying down his life in love,” the archbishop said.
In looking on Jesus as the Great High Priest, we see that the essential work of a priest is to offer sacrifice in atonement for sins. By the offering of his sinless humanity, “Jesus achieved the forgiveness of our sins once for all and put our relationship with God on an entirely new footing,” he said.
“Since by his death, Jesus has defeated the forces of sin and death, let us approach God confidently with our needs, and those of our families and our world,” Archbishop Lori said. “We can and we should pray for an end to this pandemic, for those who have died, for those who are suffering, for those who are putting their lives on the line for others. When we pray for others, when we offer our sufferings for others, we live up to our baptismal calling as a priestly people that Christ has made his own.”
In the recounts of the Passion, Pilate asks Jesus if he is a king and the Lord tells him, “My kingdom is not of this world.”
The archbishop noted that in his Gospel, John tells us that “despite the very real human fears he experienced, Jesus freely embraced the mission that had been entrusted to him by his Father. …
“Jesus was not merely a victim of evil plots, nor still less a victim of circumstances. Rather he chose to obey his Father; he chose to die for the sake of our salvation,” the archbishop said. Jesus was a king, not because he had the trappings of royalty but because “with humility, love, and freedom, he laid down his life to set us free – free from sin, free from pride and fear, free from the grip of death,” the archbishop said.
“In these days when, for reasons of public safety, our freedoms are restricted, we are called to a deeper freedom, a freedom not of this world, but rather a royal freedom of self-mastery over our sins and our fears,” he said.
“When we love like Jesus, we are indeed walking the royal road of sovereign freedom.”
After the homily, a cross draped in red was unveiled as Deacon Bauerschmidt chanted three times, “Behold the wood of the cross, on which hung the salvation of the world.”
While normally all would venerate the cross during the Good Friday service, Archbishop Lori kissed the cross on behalf of the faithful. Other ministers present, including auxiliary Bishop Adam J. Parker and cathedral rector Monsignor Richard Woy, genuflected and prayed before the cross.
The Easter Vigil and Easter Mass on Sunday will also be livestreamed from the cathedral on www.archbalt.org/online-mass. The noon Mass on Easter Sunday will also be broadcast live on archbalt.org/online-mass and WBAL-TV. It will be rebroadcast on WCBM AM 680 at 7 p.m.
Email Christopher Gunty at editor@CatholicReview.org.