Passion Sunday March 20, 2016: Archbishop O’Brien

Today, we begin Holy Week with the celebration of what is now officially called Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord. The Liturgy may seem to be a bit of a jumble as we move from shouts of joy to cries of “Crucify him!”. But, in fact, this helps us to keep in mind the whole picture of what we celebrate during Holy Week.

The triumphant entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem anticipates the great victory of the Resurrection which we celebrate at Easter. It reminds us who Jesus is – that he is King, the one who will triumph in the resurrection. However, as the Passion Narrative reminds us, there is a very painful road that must first be trod – one that involves excruciating physical pain, betrayal, and abandonment.

One of the questions we might want to look at is: what are we doing when we recall the death and resurrection of Christ during Holy Week? Certainly it is more than simply staging a pageant that recalls some long past event. When we remember the saving events of Christ’s life, it is much more self-involving than that. By our baptism, we are connected to these events. This is what has made possible who we are and who we will be – people “saved by the blood of the cross and destined for eternal life”.

Each time that we participate in the Eucharist, these events of the death and resurrection of Christ are entered into sacramentally in the Sacrifice of the Mass, as we acknowledge when we say those words, “When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim your death, O Lord, until you come again.”

I think that it is important for us to recall that celebrating Holy Week involves much more than a look back in time to the days of Jesus. It is a look into those events which have the power to help us and impact us now. The key to having an overall picture of what we are celebrating this week is contained in the second reading from St. Paul to the Philippians, where St. Paul tells us how: “The Son of God from all eternity became one of us, stepping down from glory to assume our human condition in the incarnation.” That Son, Jesus, obeyed the will of the Father even though this meant accepting death on the cross. The Father then raises Jesus, God made man, to new life and glory. Because of his death and resurrection, He, who has taken on our humanity, is able to bestow on us a share in his new and risen existence. For those who accept him in faith, He is Lord and Saviour.

In the introduction to this second chapter of Philippians, just before the passage that was our second reading, Paul makes the entreaty, “Let each of you look not to your own interests but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” This means, like Christ, striving to be attentive to what Father wants of me, and seeking to imitate Christ in his self-giving for others.
As one author puts it:
“As we go through … this week, let us look very carefully at Jesus our Saviour. We watch not just to admire, but also to learn, to penetrate the mind, the thinking, the attitudes and the values of Jesus, so that we, in the very different circumstances of our own life, may walk in his footsteps.”

May our celebration of Holy Week lead us to an ever more authentic following of Christ, living our own sufferings in a spirit of faith and hope, and helping others to cope with the things that make their lives problematic. A very practical way of doing this is by carrying out one or other of the spiritual or corporal works of mercy this Holy Week.

The Chief medical Health Officer of Kingston has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
Please read and observe the six key principles outlined below.

1) The key principle is that we come to Mass to worship God. Out of justice and exercising the virtue of religion we must give God what is God’s due. That quite simply is worship, adoration and praise. Thus, the absolute essentials of Mass will be included so that the Sacramental praise of God will take place and we will be exposed to one another for as brief a time as possible.

2) The second key principle is that the health and safety of parishioners, staff and clergy here at St. Mary’s are essential and require our utmost concern and attention. Therefore, the dispensation from the obligation to come to Sunday Mass by Archbishop Mulhall continues to be in effect. Those who are sick, elderly or have other critical health concerns should not come at this time. However, that is left to your discretion. Should you make the choice to come, knowing the risks, you are most welcome.

3) The underlying principle of all of our restrictions in isolating, physically distancing, wearing masks etc. is the common good as we live out the Lord’s commission to “love one another.” We are to care for each other and at this time we are called to be as prudent and careful as we can to protect the health of everyone else and ourselves.
4) The principle for the next few weeks will be brevity. The received scientific wisdom is that the virus spreads within groups who spend a prolonged period of time together. Therefore, we will be reducing the Mass to the bare essentials.
5) Singing is considered more dangerous than speaking so you are asked to please not sing at all throughout the Mass. I will not be singing either.
6) If you have any sickness, are elderly or have a critical illness you should remain at home. The dispensation from the obligation to come to Mass continues through this time of 30% capacity. Of course, if you choose to come you will not be turned away. We will continue to live- stream the Masses until we are back to a more normal arrangement.

The Chief medical Health Officer has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
We will pray a shorter Penitential Rite.
The Gloria will be said not sung. There is to be no singing by the congregation during the Mass. Only by a cantor or as we have today a physically distanced choir in the choir loft…3 metres apart.
We will only have one reading followed by the Psalm
The second reading will be omitted.
The choir will sing the Alleluia on Sundays. During the week it will be omitted. Please do not join in.
The Gospel.
A very brief (3-4 minute) homily will follow.
The Creed will not be prayed.
There will be no petitions. Please prepare your own petitions and offer them in your heart during the Mass.
There will be no procession of the gifts.
There will be no regular collections at this time in the Masses. It will happen later. Ushers will be at the doors to receive your offering as you leave.
The Eucharistic Prayer will be prayed. This is the Most Important Part of the Mass.
The Our Father
Sign of Peace. This is a time when we won’t shake hands. Please do not wave to each other or give the two finger sign of peace. Neither of these reflect what is the intention here…You are recognizing the presence of God in the other person and praying they know God’s peace. The most appropriate gesture is a slight bow or nod of the head to the other person. You have seen me do this at the sign of peace to all of you at every Sunday Liturgy.
Please be seated.
Then the ushers will direct you to the place where you will receive Holy Communion. Please do not leave your pew until an usher has indicated you should do so.
Another usher will be close to the Communion Station to receive your Sunday Offering.
When it is your turn to receive Holy Communion. You will stand 6 feet away on the red line. The person distributing Holy Communion will say “The Body of Christ”. You will say “Amen”. Then move forward within arms length and receive the Host. Once you have received go straight out the nearest exit and make your Thanksgiving on your way home.
Aisles 1 & 5 will come forward to receive Holy Communion and leave by the side doors.
Aisles 2, 3 & 4 will go to the back to receive Holy Communion.
Aisle 2 will exit by the exit closest to the rectory.
Aisle 3 will exit out the centre door which you came in
Aisle 4 will exit out the door by the washrooms.
You are strongly encouraged to receive Holy Communion in the hand. Receiving on the tongue endangers the person giving Holy Communion and yourself, the person receiving Holy Communion. If you wish to insist on receiving on the tongue please wait until the very end as the person giving Holy Communion should sanitize their hands after each communicant. The usher will pass you by and will come back to you after everyone else has received. Please don’t leave your pew until that has taken place.