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Holy Week: Bishop Deeley Presides over Good Friday Celebration of the Passion of the Lord in Portland

“May abundant blessing, O Lord, we pray, descend upon your people, who have honored the Death of your Son in the hope of their resurrection: may pardon come, comfort be given, holy faith increase, and everlasting redemption be made secure.”---Bishop Deeley

PORTLAND---With the altar completely bare, Bishop Robert Deeley emerged from behind the sanctuary at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland, made a reverence at the altar, and then lay prostrate in a sign of sorrow for Jesus’ death on the cross and humility to the will of God, thus beginning the Good Friday celebration of the Passion of Our Lord (additional pictures below).

From the earliest days of Christianity, no Mass has been celebrated on Good Friday, the only day of the year on which that occurs. Instead, the faithful gathered, in person and via livestream, for a special liturgy focusing on the cross to commemorate the saving passion, crucifixion, and death of Jesus. The celebration took place in three parts: Liturgy of the Word, Adoration of the Cross, and the distribution of Holy Communion.

For the Liturgy of the Word, the Passion of the Lord, proclaimed by Deacon Luis Sanclemente, recalled Jesus' death on the cross at Calvary. Then, the faithful, both in pews and at home, participated together by praying for the same 11 intentions: for the holy Church, for the Pope, for all orders and degrees of the faithful, for catechumens (those preparing to enter the Church), for the unity of Christians, for Jewish people, for those who do not believe in Christ, for those who do not believe in God, for those in public office, and for those in tribulation (the sick, the hungry, the imprisoned, the traveling, and the dying).

They also prayed for the afflicted in time of pandemic.

“Almighty ever-living God, only support of our human weakness, look with compassion upon the sorrowful condition of your children who suffer because of this pandemic,” prayed the bishop. “Relieve the pain of the sick, give strength to those who care of them, welcome into your peace those who have died and, throughout this time of tribulation, grant that we may all find comfort in your merciful love.”

Fr. Dominic Savio, HGN, parochial vicar of the Portland Peninsula and Island Parishes served as the homilist on Friday evening and said that Good Friday offers an opportunity to remind ourselves of that supreme sacrifice Jesus made for us and pointed out that many people are still afraid to fully embrace the cross of Jesus.

Fr. Savio said that in the Passion, Peter himself was afraid to suffer and refused to admit that he was a disciple of the Lord.

“Peter had promised Jesus that he was ready to give his life for him but then, on the contrary, he behaved cowardly when he was confronted by the people. While Jesus was inside the courtyard being harshly interrogated by the high priests, Peter, sitting outside the guards, denied three times that he knew Jesus. The reason is that all along Peter was afraid Jesus would die and feared for his own life as well. He let his passions have the better of him instead of keeping faith in God.”

Fr. Savio added that, in our lives, denying Jesus means failing to live up to his teachings and rejecting his authority in our lives.

“If we do not keep the commandments of the Lord as we have promised to do, we naturally deny Jesus himself,” he said. “Like Peter, we may have promised devotion to and love for our parents, spouse, children, and friends, but we may break our promises and deny our love and care for them when we think they have failed us. We often go back on our promised when challenges come our way. Let us ask the Lord today to forgive us for the times we have fallen short in our discipleship. Let us ask the Lord to forgive for us the times we have failed to offer love and support to others because of fear and the lack of faith.”

Another tradition prominent in Good Friday liturgies around the world is the Adoration of the Cross. In the Diocese of Portland, it usually begins with seminarians and clergy carrying a large cross up the center aisle and elevating it three times during a procession to the sanctuary. Following the procession, those gathered in the assembly approach the wood of the cross and reverence it with a touch, kiss, or whatever humble gesture is comfortable for the individual.

In this time of pandemic, a smaller cross was used as the bishop venerated the cross and then held it up and faced the assembly and the livestream cameras for others to offer a remembrance of Christ who offered his life for the forgiveness of every person's sins and for the salvation of the world.

The hosts used during the Holy Communion on Good Friday had been consecrated during the Holy Thursday Mass of Our Lord’s Supper at the cathedral. The Good Friday service concluded with a Prayer over the People.

“May abundant blessing, O Lord, we pray, descend upon your people, who have honored the Death of your Son in the hope of their resurrection: may pardon come, comfort be given, holy faith increase, and everlasting redemption be made secure,” prayed the bishop.

Just as they had arrived, the celebrants and assembly departed in silence on Friday, awaiting the joy of Easter. The bishop will celebrate the Easter Vigil Mass on Holy Saturday at 8 p.m. and the celebration of the Mass of the Resurrection of the Lord on Easter Sunday at 10 a.m. All are welcome at the celebrations which will be held at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and also livestreamed. For Easter Triduum Mass times at Maine parishes, click here.