Cardinal Dolan, in his Easter Sunday homily at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, emphasized how emptiness leads to fulfillment.
Easter morning, the cardinal explained, “is rather about fullness, not emptiness—fullness of light and triumph and good and hope and life. Does not the Easter message start with that empty tomb? The Holy Women, and then Peter and John, came to the grave early that first Easter morning and they found it empty. The Roman guard, posted by Pontius Pilate, had fled at something extraordinary, what had happened? An angel explains, Why are you looking for the living among the dead? He is risen as He said.”
The emptiness of the tomb is the signal that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead, the cardinal said. “The dramatic, overwhelming emptiness of Good Friday afternoon—still fresh in memory when the world was empty of light and goodness and decency, of truth and hope of life itself, empty of God—gives way to the empty tomb and the fullness of Easter glory.”
Emptiness has become a reality in the age of the coronavirus, including the barren cathedral pews at the 10 a.m. Mass the cardinal celebrated April 12. To accommodate the faithful—who for the fifth consecutive week had to virtually attend Mass by tuning into church from home—the Mass was livestreamed on the cathedral website and broadcast live via WPIX-TV.
“Empty dinner tables for Passover and Easter because family and friends can’t get together,” the cardinal said in his homily. “Empty schools and factories, restaurants, roads and airplanes. Empty wallets, empty bank accounts. Empty chairs at home where those we cherished used to sit with us.” Empty churches, said the cardinal, and empty collection baskets. “Empty lives, some wonder, as they’re tempted to conclude all that filled their days before might now be gone.”
The cardinal added, “I ask this Paschal morning, could the empty tomb of Easter be a metaphor for our world and our lives? Could it be a whispered invitation from the Risen One to search for the living one, not among the dead?”
Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord at the cathedral, although without the customary convergence of a large congregation, looked and sounded resplendent as always, from the sanctuary adorned with exquisite Easter flowers, to the uplifting spiritual hymns such as “Jesus Christ Is Risen Today” and “The Strife Is O’er.”
The congregation’s participation would include responding to the Renewal of Baptismal Promises led by Cardinal Dolan. He then sprinkled holy water among the small assembly in the cathedral sanctuary.
The Prayer of the Faithful included “for those who are suffering from the coronavirus, that they may be healed, and for the happy repose of all who have died from this sickness in recent weeks. For scientists, health professionals, public officials and all who are serving the common good in this difficult and uncertain time, that they would be filled with wisdom and understanding.”
The physically absent faithful were invited to make An Act of Spiritual Communion, an ardent desire to receive Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament when circumstances prevent one from receiving Him in sacramental Communion. The most common reason for making an Act of Spiritual Communion is when one is unable to attend Mass.
The cardinal, in his homily, cited Alexander Solzhenitsyn, whom he described as the towering Russian human rights prophet from last century who had spent many Easters in a gulag: “The worst oppression is a life without God.”
Union with Jesus, risen and ever living, the cardinal said citing the preaching of Pope Francis, anticipates that Sunday without sunset when there will be no more weariness nor pain, sorrow nor tears, but only the joy of being fully and forever alive with our Risen Lord.
“And when they arrived at the tomb, they found it empty,” the cardinal concluded his homily.
During the most sacred time of the year for Christians, public gatherings have been suspended and worship services are being offered without a congregation present, due to the public health concerns arising from the coronavirus pandemic.
“Your company, your unity in faith and prayer,” the cardinal told the virtual congregation, “adds to the incomparable joy of this Easter morning. We’re glad that through livestreaming, through the Catholic Channel Sirius XM 129, the Catholic Faith Network and PIX11 here in New York, so many of you can be with us at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, America’s parish church here on Fifth Avenue in New York City.
“We miss you, though. We’d rather you be here physically, and I hear you miss us and are eager to get back to your parishes for Sunday Mass. That’s good, that’s refreshing.”