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Unite your burdens to the Cross, Bishop says in Good Friday service

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Good Friday is a day of mourning — the day the church commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. 

Traditionally, there is no Mass and no celebration of the Eucharist on Good Friday; instead the church marks the somber day with a Service of the Passion of Our Lord at 3 p.m., the time tradition says that Jesus died on the cross. Altars are left bare and the door of the empty tabernacle stands open, to emphasize the sense of loss.

But this year, in the Arlington Diocese and elsewhere, the Good Friday service was even more stark and bare than usual, with public worship services suspended and the faithful under stay-at-home orders to stem the spread of the deadly coronavirus now sweeping the nation and the world. 

Leading a Good Friday service livestreamed from the Cathedral of St. Thomas More, Bishop Michael F. Burbidge acknowledged that life during the coronavirus pandemic has been difficult. And like the Israelites on their way to the Promised Land, he said, “our patience has been tested, and we are beginning to be worn out by the journey.”

“We continue to learn of the suffering and deaths of so many,” he said. “The way we worship has been radically changed. Daily patterns of life have been drastically interrupted and there is so much uncertainty.” 

But after the proclamation of the Passion from the Gospel of John, he reminded his flock that “there is no cross or burden that we are now carrying that the Lord has not already embraced and endured. And we know that the cross did not defeat him; he proved victorious.”

Bishop Burbidge urged those watching to “find a few silent moments to stand before the cross or crucifix in your home. Reflect on the Passion of Christ that was just proclaimed and the great love Jesus has for you. Tell him the burdens, hardships and crosses you are carrying at this moment in your life. If you unite them to his sufferings, you will find the patience, grace and timely help you need to continue your journey with the assurance that you will not be crushed or defeated, but will come to share in the glory and victory of Christ.”

The service included Veneration of the Cross, a tradition dating to the seventh century. But in a poignant twist on the moving ritual, in which parishioners usually come forward to touch or kiss the “wood of the Cross, on which hung the salvation of the world,” the Bishop carried the large crucifix right up to the camera, and held it aloft for veneration by those tuned in online. 

When the handful of those present received holy communion, which had been blessed the night before at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, the words of the Spiritual Communion were shown on the screen for those watching from home: 

Act of Spiritual Communion

My Jesus, 

I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament.

 I love You above all things, 

and I desire to receive You into my soul. 

Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally, 

come at least spiritually into my heart. 

I embrace You as if You were already there 

and unite myself wholly to You. 

Never permit me to be separated from You.



© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020