By Mary Stadnyk | Associate Editor
Following the Commemoration of the Lord’s Passion April 19 in Holy Cross Church, Trenton, Maritza Williams said she gained a new perspective on the meaning of the Cross from Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M.
“I never thought of the Cross in that way,” said Williams, referring to the Bishop’s homily in which he spoke of the cross as being two beams of common simple wood that originally had no other purpose than to be an instrument of execution and death.
Photo Gallery: Good Friday, Sacred Heart Parish, Trenton
“What brings those beams together, what makes the Cross a Crucifix, is not the intersection of wood upon wood,” said the Bishop, who presided over the 3 p.m. service in Holy Cross Church, a worship site of Sacred Heart Parish, Trenton.
“What brings those beams together and makes the Cross a Crucifix is the intersection of wood and flesh: a body stretched on a vertical wooden beam that reaches from earth to heaven; arms outstretched on a horizontal wooden beam, a body with its furthermost extensions attached by nails. This instrument of death was reserved for criminals and those considered unworthy of human life and human death,” he said.
“The Cross that we behold, the Crucifix that is the central symbol of our faith, held the body of the one whose only crime was that he loved us without condition or reservation and that he was willing to show the depth of his love with the ultimate and absolute sacrifice," Bishop O’Connell continued.
For Father Dennis Apoldite, pastor, and his parishioners, this year’s Good Friday service held special significance, not only because of Bishop O’Connell’s presence, but also because it was the first time they celebrated Holy Week as a newly established parish, following the merger between Sacred Heart Parish and Blessed Sacrament-Our Lady of the Divine Shepherd Parish last July.
“There was a nice blend of faces at the Good Friday service,” said Father Apoldite, noting that he appreciated seeing parishioners from the various worship sites in attendance. He made special mention of those groups that had an active role during the service, such as the Knights of St. John International and Ladies Auxiliary, whose members served as an honor guard.
After the Bishop’s homily and the Solemn Intercessions were prayed, the congregation came forward for the Veneration of the Cross. Instead of the Cross however, the faithful venerated a relic that Bishop O’Connell brought to the service. The relic, he said, is a splinter taken from the relics of the True Cross discovered in 326 A.D. by St. Helena, mother of the Emperor Constantine, and her companions while on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The Bishop said he received the relic as a gift and that the wax seal that holds it in place in the cruciform reliquary is hundreds of years old.
“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; another wooden beam pointing from east to west, pointing our attention to our fellow human beings. And what brings those two wooden beams, those two directions together, is a single body, his body, Jesus Christ, 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.”
Parishioner Eileen Birk spoke with emotion about Good Friday and the service. “It sent chills down my spine” to hear the Bishop’s homily, she said, and to have the opportunity to venerate the relic of the True Cross.
Parishioner Angela Dodson said it was an honor for the parish to welcome Bishop O’Connell on Good Friday. Speaking of the meaningfulness of Holy Week, Dodson centered on the Triduum – Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday – and how “those three days are the most foundational to our faith.”
“Those days,” she said, “are a wondrous thing.”