By Lara Pickford-Gordon
The cloth quickly pulled from the altar at the end of the Mass of the Last Supper, Holy Thursday was intended to shock and prepare for the events of Good Friday as Christ experienced His Passion. Archbishop Jason Gordon on Good Friday invited Catholics to reflect on the way Christ is still being crucified today.
“Last night when I stripped the altar, it was to shock us into the reality that the altar, which is a symbol of Christ, is being stripped because Christ moved forward from that moment having celebrated the Last Supper when His body would be stripped—when He will be laid bare.” The Good Friday Service at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Port of Spain continued the Triduum begun on Holy Thursday. It was carried live on CNC3, Trinity TV, streamed online tcntt.com, and catholictt.org.
Archbishop Gordon asked Catholics to reflect, “consider the reaction you felt. Consider what happened in your heart and soul, consider for a moment the shock, or horror or terror or whatever emotion it was, and ask yourself do you feel that way when we strip the Body of Christ, the Church?” He said this is done through “spreading falsehood or scandal”, acting in ways that bring disharmony to the parish or family. He pointed to the ways people “stripped” each other with their words, “making funny ‘picong’ to tear people down in front of other people” and in families “making fun of weaknesses”. He highlighted creation being stripped through environmental pollution.
If there was shock at the way altar cloth was treated, he prayed for sensitivity to feel shock at the way people treated each other. Archbishop Gordon said, “Christ is being crucified again”. Every time sin occurs, Christ is condemned and crucified again. He surmised that shock at the Crucifixion may be gone because of familiarity with seeing the images and hearing about it.
“Today I want you to be shocked and scandalised at our action, crucifying Jesus Christ”.
He added, “Are we shocked and scandalised at the way we treat the poor in our county because He says …‘I came to you hungry, naked, imprisoned’. Are we shocked at how we treat our prisoners? That too is the Body of Christ being crucified here in Trinidad and Tobago?”
Jesus absorbs all the pain of the Cross and forgives. His final words, “It is accomplished” (Jn 18) told that He completed His mission—showing broken humanity love. The Cross is a profound symbol of love which said “in spite of every shock, horror, scandal that you have throw upon me, I love you”.
Jesus asks the faithful to love as He loved and to have an open heart to the poor, and vulnerable. Through Jesus Christ on the Cross, God reconciled the world to Himself. This is the “Good News” of Good Friday. Archbishop Gordon asked for heads to be bowed before God recognising His powerful love and to say “Jesus I trust in You; Jesus have mercy on me I trust in you; Jesus forgive me through the Blood of Your Cross, I trust in You”. The Good Friday liturgy consists of three parts: The Liturgy of the Word, the Veneration of the Cross, and Holy Communion. For the Veneration, the Cross was unveiled and held aloft by the Archbishop. The liturgy ended with Archbishop Gordon and Malcom Joab departing in silence.
The Stations of the Cross, a 14-step devotion commemorating the events of Good Friday, done during Lent and re-enacted in several parishes on Good Friday morning was postponed due to COVID-19 restrictions. The Stations will be held September 15, Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross.
The Good Friday liturgy
His body disfigured—through scourging, 39 lashes, spittle, the crown of thorns, being beaten
“AS it lays bare before our eyes and we look at it; how do we make sense of this suffering?”
Ponder Mary, who witnesses the suffering of her Son rejected, disfigured. She would have remembered Simeon’s words “And a sword will pierce your own soul too and the secret thoughts of many may be revealed” LK 2:35”.
The followers of Jesus would have looked on
Blood and water flowed from His side, a theological reference, to the Sacrament of Baptism and the Eucharist. The blood of the 270 lambs slaughtered for the Passover would have flowed from the temple through side of the temple. “If you were in the Kedron valley that day what you would have seen is blood and water flowing from the side of the temple; John is making the reference that Jesus is the new temple…and if He is the new temple He is the new altar”, Archbishop Gordon said.