Christ’s Victory Over Death Celebrated at Easter Mass Amid Somber Events

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"Life is a blend of Good Friday and Easter Sunday. We’ve always got the cross, we’ve always got the resurrection.”

That was Cardinal Dolan’s assessment as he addressed the press after celebrating the 10:15 a.m. Easter Sunday Mass April 21 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

“Every once in a while we’re blessed to have just joy, but most of the time it’s diluted a little. Until we get to the eternal Easter feast of heaven, there’s going to be a blend of the cross and the resurrection.”

The cardinal’s reflection was in response to a reporter’s question about how to reconcile the bombings that befell Sri Lanka earlier in the day with the Easter Mass the cardinal had just offered to the faithful of the archdiocese.

“When we have times of the cross like Sri Lanka does today, we look forward to the resurrection,” the cardinal explained. “And they’re doing that. These are great people. They knew there was a threat, they knew there were extremists out there.” Citing their faith and hope in the resurrection, the cardinal said they chose to go to church.

Cardinal Dolan commended “that kind of fortitude, that kind of hope, that kind of resilience that gives us all a taste of Easter.” The cardinal also remembered, in the Prayer of the Faithful, those Christians in Sri Lanka who were massacred that Easter morning while at church.

Resplendent music from the choir loft resounded through the cathedral nave amid a backdrop of abundant flowers that graced the altar, adding an aesthetic glory to an uplifting liturgy that carried a promising message of hope.

“A blessed Easter everybody,” Cardinal Dolan said. “Welcome to Easter Sunday Mass,” he added to the congregants assembled in the full cathedral.

The cardinal, in his homily, underscored that in understanding and celebrating the holy day, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, it is important to “rewind” to the events of Jesus’ crucifixion on Good Friday, and “to a phrase” from the Passion. He was referring to the Scripture passage from the Gospel of John in which a Roman soldier took a spear and jabbed it into Jesus’ side, “and blood and water,” the cardinal said, then repeated, “blood and water flowed out.”

Acknowledging aloud the significance of that visual detail, “one reason, the literal reason, is to show that Jesus is really dead,” the cardinal said. “I propose to you this morning that there are two symbolic, beautifully rich, poetic, metaphorical reasons for that blood and water flowing from the open side of Christ on the cross.”

The first, he said, is “blood and water are associated with birth. When a baby is born, there is blood and water. And the Church,” the cardinal emphasized, “the Church was born from the open side of Christ on Good Friday afternoon.”

“This is important for us,” the cardinal said, “because Easter Sunday is our opportunity to profess our faith,” not only that Jesus rose from the dead, which He did, “but that Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, remains alive in and through His Church. The Church is the continuation of the victory of Christ over sin and suffering and death and Satan.”

The cardinal conceded that may be difficult to believe at times, “as we read of the terrible difficulties and sins that we associate with the Church. Sometimes we’re tempted to wonder if indeed Jesus risen from the dead is alive in His Church.

“This Easter morning says, Yes, He is.” Testimony to that occurred the previous evening, at the cathedral’s Easter Vigil, when nine adults “enthusiastically, freely, became Catholics,” the cardinal said.

In parishes “throughout this archdiocese of New York,” he added, “2,000 adults…entered the Catholic Church.”

The second reason for blood and water, the cardinal said, is that they stand for the seven sacraments of the Church, which would “continue our Lord’s victory over spiritual death... Water representing baptism, as in the cleansing waters of baptism, we are reborn. Blood, representing the Most Holy Eucharist, the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus.”

Through the sacraments, concluded the cardinal, “we share in the resurrection of Christ, which continues in and through His Church. This Easter morning, I say to you, a Blessed Easter and Happy Birthday.”

In his homily, the cardinal also acknowledged the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris April 15. “That cathedral will rise, that cathedral will be renewed. From the cross comes the resurrection, from the cross comes blood and water, and the Church is reborn.” The people of Paris, and their sorrow over Notre Dame Cathedral, were also remembered in the Prayer of the Faithful.

After the homily, the cardinal led the faithful in the Renewal of Baptismal Promises, as is customary on Easter Sunday. Holy water was then sprinkled upon the congregation.

Dressed in their Easter finery, Jose Martinez, 46, wife Paulette Hernandez, 40, and daughters Yanira, 18, and Milana, 8, exited the Mass with delight and gratitude.

“We’re Catholics, and it’s important to celebrate the blessings that we have in our family,” Martinez told CNY of why they were among the congregants. In addition to the cathedral, the family attends St. Paul the Apostle Church in Manhattan.

“The service was beautiful,” Ms. Hernandez said, and “welcoming.”

They also were grateful for the cathedral as a place of respite, especially given the recent global unrest. “We just want to be thankful to all the staff in the church,” Martinez said. “I think people forget to thank police and other people that we can’t quite see, because I’m sure there’s a lot of people safeguarding us here as well. We are actually very appreciative and aware of that.”

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