Introduction: The Importance of the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle
It is a particular joy to celebrate this Mass of Investiture here at Saint Matthew’s Cathedral. This year St. Matthew’s celebrates its 175th anniversary, & with all of you, my friends, I want to congratulate its longtime Rector, Monsignor Ronald Jameson and to thank him for his warm and gracious hospitality!
Saint Matthew’s will always have a special place in my heart.
I was ordained a priest in this sanctuary 38 years ago and on many occasions participated in major Archdiocesan liturgies and ceremonies. In the St. Francis Chapel are buried Cardinal Baum by whom I was ordained a priest, and Cardinal Hickey under whom I was privileged to serve for many years. And it was also in this Cathedral Church that the Middle Atlantic Lieutenancy was born. I remember serving as Master of Ceremonies of the first investiture. To tell the honest truth, that Mass of Investiture took an awfully long time. Through the years, we’ve learned to streamline the ceremony without losing any of the solemnity and meaning of one’s being invested in the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre.
The Upper Room
Gathered in this beautiful Cathedral Church, we are linked with the Apostles and the Virgin Mary who returned to the upper room after the Lord’s Ascension for prayer. Watching and waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit they were ‘one in mind and heart’, as they prepared for the mission of spreading the Gospel from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth.
This Cathedral Church is our upper room. With one accord, we too have gathered with the Apostles and the Virgin Mary to celebrate the One Sacrifice that brings salvation and peace. We are here to pray for the grace and strength of the Holy Spirit as we prepare for our mission as members of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre. We are here to ask that our faith be strengthened, that we may open our hearts to Christ, crucified and risen, and that we might be his witnesses, especially in aid that we will bring to the Church in the Holy Land in its travails, and to our brothers and sisters in the Middle East who have been displaced, dispossessed, and persecuted for their faith.
Going Forth with Praise
When the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles, they went forth from the upper room with praise in their hearts to preach the Gospel everywhere. When Mary conceived the Son of God through the power of the Holy Spirit, she too went forth, in haste, to her cousin Elizabeth to assist her in her needs. When Mary arrived at the doorstep of her cousin’s house, she broke into a beautiful song of praise that celebrated God’s great and wonderful deeds. With praise in her heart, she ministered to her aged cousin, now with child.
So too, we are not destined to remain in this upper room. Investiture, membership, and leadership in the Order of the Holy Sepulchre calls us to go forth in haste to aid our the Church in the Holy Land as it seeks to retain a dwindling Christian population and to serve the needs of the young, the aged, the sick and the vulnerable. We may or may not be able to hasten to the Holy Land to provide direct aid but through our participation in the mission of this Order we can hasten to aid our sisters and brothers in the Holy Land with our prayers and with much needed generosity. In this way, our charity reaches out beyond its comfort zone to assist people we may never meet but who live in the land made holy by the Death and Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
But let us focus for but a moment on those who need our help. Our Grand Master, Edwin Cardinal O’Brien, urgently calls our attention to the plight of the Syrian refugees and the Christians in the Nineveh Plain, places where the Christian faith first took root. “Each one of us, today,” he said, “should try to see Christ in the face of each migrant.” So too Pope Francis focused on the suffering of children in the Middle East. “Still too many children live in exile, as refugees, at times lost at sea, particularly in the waters of the Mediterranean. In acknowledging this, we feel shame before God, before God who became a child.”
A Woman Clothed with the Sun
Surveying the complex and tragic scene in the Holy Land and the Middle East, we may wonder if our prayers, good will and good works will produce anything of substance, anything that will truly restore justice and peace. It would be all too easy for us to become discouraged, to throw up our hands, and to imagine that there is nothing we can do to make things better.
Let the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, the woman clothed with the sun, dispel such thoughts and put to rest any such temptations! Mary stands before us and among us as a sign from heaven so that we will not falter in our prayers, in our courage, or in our resolve to live in solidarity with the Church in the Middle East and to reach out in love to our suffering brothers and sisters.
The off-putting imagery of the Book of Revelation reminds us that the struggle for the salvation of the world is fierce, that we are always battling a invisible yet powerful enemy, and that we engage in this struggle, not as soldiers of fortune, but as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ who are called to conquer evil with good and to conquer hate with love. And for that reason, we bear upon our hearts the emblem of Christ – the Cross which reveals a love stronger than sin and more powerful than death, a Cross marked by the five wounds by our Savior has overcome the world.
So dear investees, we welcome you to the Order! We are heartened by your willingness to enlist for the duration and to stand with us in professing and living the faith, to stand with us in a solidarity of love for the Church in the Holy Land and for our suffering sisters and brothers in the Middle East.
Through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, may God bring to completion the good work he has begun in you this day!