Good Friday-Archbishop O’Brien

Homily by Archbishop Brendan M. O’Brien

Good Friday 2017

One of the principal parts of the Good Friday liturgy is the Veneration of the Cross, and, so, I would like to reflect on it with you for a few moments.

The cross for us is a religious symbol that we readily recognize; we associate it with beautiful, peaceful, church-like settings; we often wear it as jewelry fashioned out of silver or gold.  But, if we were the contemporaries of Jesus, we would be terrified of the cross, for it was a brutal instrument of torture and death.  It was meant to be terrible; it was meant to be humiliating – a horrible, public way to die – as we say “excruciating” ex crucis from the cross.

On Good Friday, the account of the Passion which is proclaimed is taken from John’s gospel.  And while he does not gloss over the horror and suffering of the crucifixion, he sees in the cross more than pain and defeat.  He sees it as the ‘hour’ for which Jesus has been preparing all his life.  St. John, in his gospel, does not see the cross in isolation, but looks backwards at it through the lens of the resurrection.

Without that perspective, the cross would surely be a tragedy and Jesus a victim, whose work on earth would have been a failure as even his closest followers deserted him.

In  the Letter to the Philippians, St. Paul helps us to see how, even in all its horror, a saving work was taking place on the cross, and the reason is that, on the cross, Jesus was acting in such a way as to reverse the destructive power of sin.

”Christ Jesus”, says St. Paul, “though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross.”

Bishop Robert Barron, in one of his talks, contrasts Jesus and Adam.  Adam, who was made in the image and likeness of God, seeks to become God, which results in the fall.  The self- elevation of Adam and all of us when we sin is countered by Jesus’s divine self-abnegation.  Jesus did not cling to his divine status, he did not reach up to grasp, but bends down in love and moves into our world of fear and sin and human dysfunction.  The painful degradation of Jesus on the cross, his self emptying, makes possible a new way forward for humanity.  Divine love on the cross absorbs our sin while Jesus’s resurrection gives us the promise of eternal life.

And, so, the cross, this terrible and brutal instrument of torture seen through the lens of the resurrection of Christ, takes on a new meaning.  It becomes the instrument of our salvation.

As a sign of God’s love, the cross is a powerful symbol.  Its vertical beam represents the reuniting of heaven and earth, of God and humanity; its horizontal beam, with Christ’s arms outstretched on it, signifies the reuniting of human beings who are the beneficiaries of that same great love.

Our Veneration of the Cross is meant to elicit our love in return.  This is how it brings about its healing effect, leading us to the realization that, despite our sins, our failings, and our imperfections, we are beloved by God; and, because God’s love extends beyond us to others, they should be the recipients of our love and concern.


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.