Bishop Douglas J. Lucia celebrates Holy Thursday Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception April 9. He is joined by (from left) retired Bishop Robert J. Cunningham, Deacon Robert Burke, seminarian Carlos Gonzalez (kneeling in front of altar), and Cathedral rector Msgr. Neal Quartier. (screenshot from youtube.com/syrdio)
By Katherine Long | Editor
As the Sacred Triduum began with the faithful in their homes instead of in their churches, Bishop Douglas J. Lucia assured those watching his livestreamed Mass that “it is the Lord who comes to us wherever we are, for where two or three are gathered in his name, he is there among us.”
Bishop Lucia celebrated Holy Thursday Mass in an echoing Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception April 9, joined by retired Bishop Robert J. Cunningham, Cathedral rector Msgr. Neal Quartier, Deacon Robert Burke, and two seminarian servers. Though the pews were empty, hundreds watched the Mass live online; public Masses across the diocese and the country remain suspended amid the coronavirus pandemic.
On Holy Thursday, the Church remembers Jesus’ Last Supper and celebrates the institution of the Eucharist and the ordained priesthood. The ritual washing of parishioners’ feet, recalling Jesus’ act of service to his disciples, was omitted from this year’s liturgies.
“The first Passover meal, described in our reading from the Book of Exodus, was very much a domestic celebration,” Bishop Lucia said in his homily. “In that night of darkness and chaos, when the Angel of Death passed over the land of Egypt, it is the home and the family that provide for God’s people a place of security and refuge.” Likewise, he said, the Gospels recount that the night before he suffered, Jesus celebrated the Passover with his disciples, “his newly constituted family, in the upper room of a family’s home.”
During the ritual of the Jewish Passover Seder, the youngest person present asks, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” Bishop Lucia noted. This year, the question takes on new significance. “On Holy Thursday 2020, gathered in our individual households, in the midst of unsettled times and the threat of death due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we call to mind that Passover meal in the Upper Room in Jerusalem and ask ourselves, ‘Why is this night different from all other nights? What does it have to say to us in our present predicament?’”
Tonight the faithful are reminded that “we as Christ’s family — not in buildings confining but as a family of faith, as Church, which surpasses time and space — dwell now in an upper room filled with light. This night we bless the Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us with his commandments and commanded us to be the light to the nations and who gave us Jesus, our Messiah, the Light of the World.”
“Here is the table where the Church begins,” the bishop said. “This very night the Lord shares with us the bread of the covenant; he puts into our hands the sign of the Passover, a Passover from death to life.”
But Jesus did not remain in the Upper Room. Like Jesus’ first disciples, we faithful are called to follow him, even into the darkness of places like the Garden of Gethsemane, Bishop Lucia said. “Before leaving the Upper Room, Jesus teaches his disciples what weapon they should carry when they go out to confront the dark places of the world: not swords or spears, but love. Love is the counterforce to darkness and chaos….
“Love is the power which originally created the world and it is love which will establish it afresh in its original goodness. It is in the gesture of tonight’s Gospel reading — Jesus washing his disciples’ feet — that he gives us a poignant demonstration of what love for one another means. In this simple action we see who Jesus is, what he has come to do for us, and what he wants us to do….
“Our participation in the Eucharist makes us become like Jesus, so that we can begin to love as Jesus loved…. If Jesus were just an ethical teacher, you and I would have the guidance of his teaching and the inspiration of his example. But he is also our Savior and Redeemer, and so we have been given much more,” Bishop Lucia said. “Through the Sacrament of the Eucharist, the institution which we commemorate this very night, God shares his very life with us so that we can live like him in service to one another and be bearers of light in our world today.”
As Mass ended, the bishop invited those watching to make a virtual pilgrimage organized by the diocese. Visitation, a Holy Thursday tradition in which the faithful visit Altars of Repose in churches to venerate the Blessed Sacrament, was not possible this year due to restrictions necessitated by the spread of the coronavirus. Visitors to the diocesan website, however, were provided links to nine parishes livestreaming views of their tabernacles, along with prayers and meditations, in order to make virtual visits.
Watch Bishop Lucia’s Holy Thursday Mass below, courtesy Syracuse Catholic Television.