Because pandemic restrictions prohibited the Veneration of the Cross, Bishop O'Connell instead blessed the congregation with a relic of the True Cross.
Because pandemic restrictions prohibited the Veneration of the Cross, Bishop O'Connell instead blessed the congregation with a relic of the True Cross.
Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., remembers well the Crucifix that hung in his family’s home when he was a youngster. Any time his mother would pass the Crucifix, she would stop and kiss the feet of Jesus.

“In Jesus Christ, God’s love was made real, visible and tangible,” the Bishop said to the congregation in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton, on Good Friday, April 2.

PHOTO GALLERY: Bishop celebrates Good Friday service

Good Friday is when Christians throughout the world fix their gaze on the Cross of Christ and strive to understand the sacrifice that he endured in order to bring about their salvation and promise of eternal life. And during the solemn commemoration of the Lord’s Passion, it was Bishop O’Connell’s desire to share with the faithful about the love that Jesus Christ showed for his people through his agonizing journey to Calvary and Death on the Cross.

During the somber liturgy, which was livestreamed on all diocesan media platforms, Bishop O’Connell centered his homily on the Cross, which has been the central and most widely known symbol of Christianity for more than 2,000 years. 

“In a world where little seems permanent, where things come and go easily, where passing fads are commonplace, where so much is considered relative, including the dictates of our human moral conscience, the fact that a symbol has endured for so long everywhere should say something to everyone who sees it, even to those who don’t believe in Christ or Christianity or religion,” said Bishop O’Connell.

Making the distinction between a cross and a Crucifix, Bishop O’Connell said the Crucifix displays Jesus’ brutalized body.

“It has endured because it depicts and represents the turning point of humanity and life in this world as we have known it,” he said. “The Lord Jesus Christ, the Word made Flesh, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, God Himself, was put to death by us, for our sins, by those he came to save.

“The most hopeful admission we have to make is that he died for us and in his Death, he did save us,” Bishop O’Connell said. “Nothing more important has ever happened in the history of the world than the moment of his Death, which we remember in a dramatic way on Good Friday and every time we look at the Crucifix.”

During the Good Friday service, which was a Liturgy of the Word with the reception of Holy Communion, Bishop O’Connell was joined in the sanctuary by Cathedral clergy including Msgr. Joseph Roldan, rector.

Because of the pandemic, there were some changes made to the liturgy, with one of them being that there was no public Veneration of the Cross. Instead, the Bishop held up a reliquary and blessed the congregation with a relic of the true cross. He also extended an invitation to any faithful who were viewing the livestream to pray a Spiritual Communion since they were not able to receive the Blessed Sacrament in person.

“My sisters and brothers, the Crucifix is not a decoration or merely a symbol,” Bishop O’Connell said. “The Crucifix is the most powerful reminder of the greatest love the world has ever known: one wooden beam pointing from the earth to the sky, pointing our attention to God, [and] another wooden beam pointing from east to west, pointing our attention to our fellow human beings.

“What brings those two wooden beams, those two directions together, is a single body, his Body, Jesus Christ, nailed to that Cross, whose life of suffering and transforming love was a life and a love for all; a crucified love that has endured and will continue to endure; a love that turns the wood of a tree, the tree of defeat and death, into a tree of life and victory.

“And now we go to the tomb and wait,” he said.