“Who has the last word?” Cardinal Dolan asked the joyful faithful gathered for Mass in a packed St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Easter Sunday morning.
“Who has the last word in the drama, the courtroom, the debate, that we call life itself? In what we call history, which is really His, God’s story, who has the last word? Is it God or is it Satan? Is it life or is it death? Is it goodness or is it evil? Is it light or is it darkness?”
The cardinal, in his homily at the 10:15 a.m. liturgy April 16, underscored the fact that it was God who had the first word—he referenced the Book of Genesis, “In the beginning…God said, ‘Let there be light’…
“And today, my brothers and sisters in Christ, on this glorious Easter morning, we celebrate the supreme conviction that God also has the last word,” the cardinal said.
That word, the cardinal said, is a word of life and light and mercy and grace.
“Does your life seem at times a Good Friday afternoon? the cardinal asked the congregation. “Welcome. We’ve all been there, we all will be there.
“Easter Sunday morning trumps Good Friday,” the cardinal said. “Easter has the last word—not Good Friday. And God has the last word. On Good Friday, God cried. On Easter Sunday morning, God laughs. And he who laughs last, laughs best. A blessed Easter.”
A heightened police presence was apparent at the cathedral during Holy Week and on Easter Sunday in the wake of terrorist attacks in Egypt against minority Christian communities at a Coptic Orthodox cathedral and a church in that country on Palm Sunday.
“Think of the first Good Friday,” Cardinal Dolan told reporters after the Mass. “…there were the soldiers. Think of the first Easter Sunday—there were three soldiers guarding the tomb. Good Friday and Easter Sunday have always been a little risky.”
Bob Hogan, 79, a retired NYPD lieutenant, attended the liturgy with his wife Joan, 76, and one of their twin daughters and two granddaughters, ages 16 and 13.
Concerned for their safety, the couple conceded they felt some apprehension about going. “We had some second thoughts about bringing our grandchildren to church and the Mass because, of course, this is really such a potential target,” said Hogan, who served with the NYPD from 1961 to 1982. “But we all decided as a family that we weren’t going to let that stop us.”
“I was the most nervous,” Mrs. Hogan said, adding she eventually found comfort by concluding “whatever happens, we’re together.”
Fortunately, all was fine. The couple, who have been married 53 years, expressed their Easter joy to CNY after Mass as they basked in the bright sunshine amid bustling crowds outside the cathedral.
“What a wonderful, great day,” Hogan said of the unseasonably warm temperature that would reach the low 80s. “Spring is here and the grass is green.
“It’s joyous—He is risen,” Mrs. Hogan added of Easter. “The bonnets are out.”
Cardinal Dolan, in remarks before administering a paschal blessing, also referred to the Easter finery all around him. “Usually I’m the one in church that’s got the nicest hat,” he quipped in a reference to the mitre he wears as a bishop. On this particular day, he added, he was overshadowed. The faithful responded in appreciative laughter.
In parishes across the archdiocese at the Easter Vigil on April 15, “2,000 people were baptized and entered our Catholic faith,” the cardinal said. “Last evening, they made their baptismal promises. On Easter Sunday morning, the tradition is that we would renew ours.”
After leading the renewal of baptismal promises of the faithful, the cardinal, along with Msgr. Robert Ritchie, the cathedral rector and another priest, canvassed the cathedral and sprinkled the assembly with holy water.
Bountiful flowers adorned the sanctuary and St. Patrick’s Cathedral Choir seemed to further lift the spirits of the exultant congregation through vibrant, soaring hymns.
“The ‘Hallelujah’ chorus was great,” said 24-year-old Mary Suflita of the Diocese of Rochester.
Her sister and brother-in-law, Laura and Anthony DeJohn, also of Rochester, accompanied her. It was the DeJohns’ first visit to the cathedral, and the second for Ms. Suflita.
“The Mass was incredible,” DeJohn said. Seeing the cathedral for the first time on an Easter Sunday, he added, was “almost surreal” and “very powerful.”
Innocent victims of terrorism and persecuted Christians in the Middle East were remembered in the Prayer of the Faithful, also known as the Universal Prayer. Also acknowledged in the Easter blessing before the dismissal were “fellow Christians who literally risk their lives in certain parts of the world by going to Easter Sunday Mass this morning.”
“We ask the blessing of the Risen Lord,” the cardinal said, “upon this city and this country.”