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, presided at a Liturgy of the Word and Veneration of the Cross at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington. During the Veneration of the Cross, people came forward to kiss a crucifix, recalling Christ’s death for our salvation.
“The cross which stands in the very center of today and dominates our vision, our thoughts, our imagination and our liturgy is the life-giving 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 brings us to the foot of the cross for the answer,” he said. “We know that in spite of ourselves and everything we do we are surrounded by God’s love and his loving forgiveness.”
“Good Friday brings each one of us to the foot of the cross,” said Cardinal Wuerl. “We have come here to this cathedral Church just as Catholics all over the world are gathering on Good Friday to step forward and stand at the foot of the cross.”
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 through the cross, the cardinal continued. “Through the eyes of faith we see so much more than just a cross with a ruined body on it. This is the same faith that tells you and me that God never tires of forgiving us.”
Cardinal Wuerl concluded the homily saying, “When we come today to the cross and reverence it with love and faith, let us quietly repeat in our hearts a simple yet sincere, ‘Thank You, Lord Jesus.’”
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 and Bishop Mario Dorsonville, auxiliary bishop of Washington, greeted pilgrims walking the Via Crucis (“Way of the Cross”) procession on Friday afternoon as it made its way to the steps of the cathedral for a Spanish liturgy and veneration of the cross. 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 liturgy.
On Holy Saturday as the Church reflects on Christ’s Passion and Death, there is no Mass until the Easter Vigil in the evening when Christ’s Resurrection is proclaimed and Mass is celebrated.