Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, has marked the beginning of the Easter Triduum by celebrating Holy Thursday Mass broadcast live online and to an empty St Patrick’s Cathedral.
Despite the lack of a congregation, Bishop Vincent was joined by hundreds of members of the Church in Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains, who were watching online from their homes via Facebook and YouTube due to the closure of all church buildings as a result of the coronavirus.
“It’s rather unusual to celebrate the Holy Week ceremonies without a normal congregation, but I trust that I have the benefit of your company at home and your participation in these sacred ceremonies in spite of the physical distance,” Bishop Vincent said during his welcome.
Bishop Vincent celebrated the Solemn Mass of the Lord’s Supper alongside Fr Bob Bossini, Dean of the Cathedral, and Master of Ceremonies Fr Chris del Rosario. Members of the Cathedral parish participated in the Mass as readers and altar servers, with musical accompaniment from a scaled back Cathedral Schola.
In his homily, Bishop Vincent said that this time of pandemic make us question how we can truly be the Body of Christ, but we are still called to model our lives on Christ.
“The Eucharist is the source and the summit of Christian live. It nourishes us and empowers us to live and to witness to the Gospel. Yet in these days of the pandemic, when we cannot even gather in twos or threes in the name of Jesus, we feel deprived in so many ways.
“We ask ourselves how we can be the Body of Christ in this time of great trial and distress? How can we live out the call to be a Eucharistic Church which is to be the body broken and the blood shed for the life of the world?
“The celebration of the Last Supper anticipates the new exodus that we are to embark upon with our Lord and Master. To eat his flesh and drink his blood is to participate in his life-giving death and resurrection – it is to be his presence in the world. It is a profound statement of solidarity with all who suffer throughout the world.
“This is not something we can do alone, but as a community in communion with Christ and with our brothers and sisters who form his Body on Earth. So let us become fully what we already are – Christ’s body, broken for others, His blood poured out for many.
“May we model our lives on the one who came that all may have life and have it to the full.”
Due to a decree issued by The Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, there was no ‘washing of the feet’ ritual during Mass.
At St Monica’s Parish, North Parramatta, during a Mass celebrated in both English and Cantonese, parish priest Fr Ephraim Lam told his congregation the importance of the sacrament of the Eucharist being beyond a ritual performed in a church.
“Yes, the church is closed, but only the buildings are closed, not the Church herself. Tonight, I am practically alone in this church building, but the celebration continues,” Fr Ephraim said.
“The Eucharist is a true sacrifice of the Lord for us. It is not just the ritual performed by priests in churches, but it is when we believe and when we worship this Lord, because this loving, merciful God sacrificed for us.
“When we truly live according to the new commandment from Christ, when we truly love one another, yes, we are surely participating in this wonderful and blessed sacrament – and that is the revelation from the Lord tonight.
“When we remember the Lord, when we pray, when we worship, when we believe, and when we live according to the commandments of the Lord, we are part of this wonderful sacrament.”
On the other side of the Diocese, nestled in the Blue Mountains, Fr Paul Slyney, parish priest of St Thomas Aquinas Parish, Springwood, told his online congregation that in these times of uncertainty, Christ remains the constant in our lives.
“No matter how predictable our lives may seem to be, there are some things that obviously are outside of our control. Things emerge in our lives like a phone going off that reminds us we do not live alone, our lives are made up of contact and inter-relationships,” Fr Paul said.
“That is why tonight, the Church gathers to celebrate the constant in our life – the communion and the Unity of our God and one another that gives us life and hope.
“Tonight, in this world, in our little church, surrounded by fear of the coronavirus, by isolation and by an awareness that our lives are somehow changed and disrupted, we return to the one constant that gives us life – Christ Jesus and the connections he makes with us and that we make and we connect with one another.
“For the first time in 38 years as a priest that I haven’t celebrated with a congregation, let us unite ourselves in the one who makes us one. Let us unite ourselves in a God who loves and cares for us all, and let us unite ourselves in a God who invites us to love and care for one another in this time and in all times, in these fears and these uncertainties, but also with joy and hope with the wonder of the promise of Christ to be with us, who’ll abide gently in our hearts and we will always know the gentle presence of Christ as we share that with joy with one another.”
Parishes around the Diocese of Parramatta will continue to livestream Easter Triduum services from their parish Facebook and YouTube channels. To see which parishes are hosting live streams, please visit www.parracatholic.org/covid19
Bishop Vincent will be celebrating the remainder of the Easter Triduum via livestreams from St Patrick’s Cathedral. He will celebrate the Passion of the Lord on Good Friday from 3pm, the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday at 7.30pm and Easter Sunday at 11am. Visit the Diocese of Parramatta’s Facebook page or YouTube channel to tune in.