‘Battle for our souls has begun’

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Archbishop Fisher OP washes the feet of worshippers at St Mary’s Cathedral on Holy Thursday night. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

Thousands of Catholics have gathered at St Mary’s Cathedral and Sydney parishes for the opening of the Easter Triduum with Holy Thursday’s Mass of the Lord’s Supper.

Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP welcomed the congregation to the cathedral with some thoughts about the fire at Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral which gripped the world this Holy Week.

“It is all the more poignant that the fire occurred in Holy Week in the cathedral that houses what is believed to be the Crown of Thorns and that firefighters risked their lives to save it,” he said.

Crowds in St Mary's Cathedral for Holy Thursday
A packed St Mary’s Cathedral during the entrance procession for the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. PHOTO: G Portelli

“The Church of Sydney knows about such losses, having twice lost our cathedral to fire, as did our daughter diocese of Parramatta.”

The archbishop said the task of rebuilding the Church is one for every age, “but especially so here in Australia at present”.

“As we begin tonight the three-day-long Liturgy commemorating the saving events of Christ’s Passion, Death and Resurrection, we entrust that task first and foremost to our Saviour.”

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In his homily, the archbishop said that the Mass on Holy Thursday night marks the beginning of Christ’s final “battle for our souls”.

“For our sakes, the King of Kings makes Himself our slave, our food,” he said.

“But at the end of our ceremony there will be no final blessing, no dismissal, for this Passover continues tomorrow, as Jesus is stripped again and ‘made humbler yet, even to accepting death on a cross’.”

Clergy from across Sydney gathers to renew vows and collect sacramental oils on Holy Thursday morning. PHOTO: G Portelli

The archbishop was joined by Bishop Tony Randazzo, cathedral dean Don Richardson and other clergy and seminarians of the archdiocese.

Earlier in the day clergy, religious, seminarians and representatives of parishes and schools gathered at the cathedral for the annual Chrism Mass where priests solemnly renewed their promises to serve the people of God.

Archbishop Fisher focused on the heart of Our Lord in his homily and reminded them that their mission, like Christ’s, is to convert people’s hearts, and “bind up every broken heart”.

Newly-consecrated Oil of the Sick, Oil of Catechumens (for baptisms) and Oil for Holy Chrism. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

“But if priests are to bring human hearts in line with that of God, they must first conform their own hearts to Christ’s—what animates and guides them must be a pastor’s loving heart,” he said.

After the renewal of vows by the clergy Archbishop Fisher blessed the three oils intended for use in every parish through the liturgical year: the Oil of the Sick, the Oil of Catechumens, for baptisms, and the Oil for Holy Chrism, for those to be ordained.