The Triduum and Easter didn’t change, but how Catholics in the Diocese of Richmond and throughout the world celebrated them did.
Due to COVID-19 and restrictions on gatherings due to concern about its spread, public Masses have been suspended in the diocese since March 22. As a result, members of the faithful depended upon computer technology to be their link to the celebration of Mass and other Holy Week services.
From Palm Sunday, April 5, through Easter Sunday, April 12, Bishop Barry C. Knestout celebrated four Masses and led the commemoration of the Passion of the Lord at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart. No more than 10 people, including the bishop and the video production crew, were present at the liturgies, each of which was livestreamed via the diocesan website.
On Holy Thursday, the bishop told viewers that celebration of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper “will be the most difficult celebration of the Triduum.”
He continued, “We celebrate this gift of the Eucharist on a day, the first time in living memory, when very few can share in this Eucharist. This is distressing and traumatic for all of us. May God grant us a swift victory over the coronavirus, over this angel of death, which passes over this land, like over Egypt of old, threatening to take from us those we love.”
In his Good Friday homily, he noted how in his Gospel, St. John speaks of Jesus’ prophetic power, priestly sacrifice, kingship and majesty.
“In a world that values and draws our attention to stature and dignity and clever words and great deeds. God’s power and dignity, his stature and truth are revealed in a cataclysm of passion, suffering and death,” he said, adding that all of that was revealed as Christ’s light was “obscured and his life sacrificed.”
Bishop Knestout continued, “Therefore, we are invited to listen to God’s word with attention and obedience, to sacrifice our lives with reverence and piety, and to accept his reign over our hearts and lives with courage and devotion.”
At the Easter Vigil, the bishop spoke about darkness, death, confusion and “uncertainty of a pestilence on the land.” But he said that can be overcome.
“Our faith and the truth of what we celebrate tonight should give us courage and strength. Christ brings light out of darkness. He suffers, dies and rises from the dead!” he said.
Noting the resurrection, ascension and Pentecost, the bishop said, “We know about the power and courage that comes with it. We can peer through the clouds of uncertainty and sorrow and see a cause of joy and hope.”
Bishop Knestout concluded, “God has conquered death! It is true — he has risen, and we share that resurrected life here and now! Even if the world is filled with reminders of chaos, darkness, death and sorrow, he is risen and we can confront the terrors of the night, and the arrows of plague that fly by day, with the armor of our faith, the confidence in Christ who has conquered sin and death, and gives us light and life, today and every day.”