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Friday, June 21, 2024
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Easter is light amid a crisis for believers, Archbishop tells worshippers

The largest numbers yet seen at St Mary's Cathedral Easter services this year heard Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP announce that in the midst of an apparent tragedy and unspeakable suffering, the light of faith is never quite snuffed out ...

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Acolytes hold crosses for veneration by the faithful at Good Friday’s commemoration of the Passion of the Lord. All photos: Giovanni Portelli

If Christ’s arrest, suffering and death constitute a crisis of faith for His disciples, they are also a crisis of hope for Jesus, Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP told a  large Cathedral congregation participating in the commemoration of the Passion on Good Friday.

Numbers attending services at the cathedral continued to surge as the Easter Triduum progressed, with an estimated 1550 at the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday afternoon. Around 1200 filled the cathedral with another 350 watching the ceremony on television screens either from the crypt or outside.

Almost 1000 attended the traditional Stations of the Cross prayers earlier that morning.

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Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP lies prostrate before the main altar in St Mary’s Cathedral during the commemoration of the Passion of the Lord.

Crisis in the Kingdom of God

The world is gripped by numerous crises such as the three million who have died from the Covid pandemic so far, the Archbishop said in his homily on Friday afternoon.

And while the persistent talk of crisis may – depending on the subject – be sometimes overblown, the physical, emotional and spiritual calamity at the heart of the Easter Triduum is real: it tears the world apart, he said.

The theme of crisis permeated the Archbishop’s homilies to Catholics attending cathedral ceremonies throughout the three days of the Easter commemoration.

Archbishop Fisher’s bare feet as he prays before the Cross starkly emphasise the poverty of the central Christian fact: Christ has died for us. A deacon holds the Cross aloft in St Mary’s Cathedral as worshippers remember Christ’s death and crucifixion.

A crisis of hope

“Last night we witnessed Part I of this Crisis in the Kingdom of God, when at Supper and in the Garden Jesus’ followers – the Church – lost faith,” Archbishop Fisher told worshippers.

“Judas would die from this loss of faith, in God’s mercy, the world, himself; Peter would recover. Those apostles are us, of course, when we go through a crisis of confidence or ideals, a dark night of the soul, when we feel betrayed, or God seems distant, and we are rudderless. For some this lasts a short while only, for others many years. Like the Twelve, we could tip either way, into infidelity or renewed faith.”

Gallery – Stations of the Cross

What might be described as ‘Part II’ of the crisis in the Kingdom of God occurs as Jesus cries out to His Father who seems to have abandoned Him in His greatest moment of need on the cross.

“No beautiful, charismatic figure, today’s Jesus, drawing attention and affection. “Lifted up… we were appalled on seeing him… a thing despised and rejected, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief”, Archbishop Fisher said.

“We, too, can be acquainted with grief, anxiety, depression, over sickness or death, our own or another’s, or over dysfunctional relationships, dashed aspirations. Our problems seem too big, our solutions too small. Courage fails, optimism evaporates. Some try to shore things up by maximising wealth, power or security. Others numb the pain with drugs or distractions, or drop out altogether.

A woman genuflects before the Cross during Good Friday’s Commemoration of the Passion of the Lord. An estimated 1500 or more people attended the service.

Signs of hope

Yet in the midst of the tragedy there are signs of the hope that will triumph, he said.

“Some stand by faithful to the end. The pagan governor recognises Jesus as ‘King of the Jews’ and centurion as ‘son of God’. A criminal is promised paradise. Jesus declares His mission accomplished. The Water of Baptism and Blood of the Eucharist flow from His side. Two disciples work up the courage to claim the Body.”

Meanwhile, he said, as the disciples passed through a crisis of faith the previous evening following Christ’s arrest, “we all prayed for stronger faith. Today it’s a crisis of hope and we pray also for stronger hope. We take hold of the faith and hope God offers. We call that most hopeless of days Good Friday, for it is the passage to tomorrow night, when there will be more to tell.”


Gallery – Commemoration of the Passion

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