Hail Cross Our Only Hope

by Aidan McIntosh

Hail, Cross, of hopes the most sublime!
Now in this mournful Passion time,
Improve religious souls in grace,
The sins of criminals efface.

– Vexilla Regis

Good Friday is a remarkably different day. It is quiet and still – even in a busy city like DC. There is a sense of solemnity permeating the air, sensible to both believers and nonbelievers. All of creation rests in anticipation. Something is not right. In fact, something is terribly wrong. Nevertheless, there is a great sense of peace and surrender.

At 3 o’clock, the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion begins. The altar is stripped bare, the tabernacle lies without its King, and there is no music or any external sense of festivity – strikingly different from the Holy Thursday celebration of the Last Supper. We are presented with the Cross in all its humility and bareness, so that we may be more fully immersed in our Lord’s kenosis – His supreme self-emptying act of love. We look forward to His glorious Resurrection, through first adoring the Cross and Christ’s surrender to the Father, by which we have been saved.

In my first year of seminary, I have been invited to further enter into the mystery of the Holy Cross. The Cross was not foreign to me before entering seminary; the Holy Mass and silent prayer allowed me to receive and understand Christ’s sacrificial love. But it is through the liturgical life of the Church experienced every day in the seminary that the Lord has allowed me to seek Him more intentionally as the Crucified One and listen to Him.

Our liturgical life in the seminary consists of Lauds (Morning Prayer), the Holy Mass, and Vespers (Evening Prayer) every day, along with a Holy Hour of Eucharistic Adoration. The Liturgy changes the house and keeps Christ’s sacrifice at its center. It tells us that something here is sanctified – set apart from everything else – and meant for worship. Cardinal Ratzinger writes, “Liturgy implies a real relationship with another, who reveals himself to us and gives our existence a new direction.” It sets times to celebrate and rejoice–as we have done with parties for St. Patrick’s and St. Joseph’s Day–and tells us when to fast and repent, as we pray Psalm 51 each Friday.

This liturgical culture allowed me to enter into the rich season of Lent and prepare for the Sacred Triduum. Praying with not only the readings at Mass, but also with the array of antiphons, penitential psalms, patristic readings, and traditional hymns in the Liturgy of the Hours reminds me that this season of Lent is not a self-centered journey, but it is about conforming to Jesus Christ through and with His Church. Receiving Him daily in the Eucharist makes all of this possible as He invites us to participate in this Sacred Banquet, in which His Passion is renewed and the soul is filled with grace.

The Good Friday liturgy, in its extreme barrenness, reminds us that the Cross is truly our only hope. He cries out from the Cross and invites us into His divine life with the Father and the Holy Spirit. This is the supreme gift of the sacred liturgy, and we have the blessing to respond to this divine call every single day in the seminary. We know that the Cross culminates in the glory of the Resurrection and that the Resurrection can come only after the Cross. So, as men discerning the priesthood, it is the Cross–the supreme act of self-gift and humility–that we desire to conform to, so that we may become like Christ in service to His Church.

Mr. McIntosh is a first pre-theologian for the Archdiocese of Washington.


Is God Calling You To Be a Priest?

Maybe yes, maybe no.
Give Him a chance, and He’ll tell you.


Sent Out

"There is an appointed time for everything…" - Ecclesiastes 3:1

Hail Cross Our Only Hope

Good Friday is a remarkably different day. It is quiet and still...

Play Like St. Joseph

Every night after dinner at St. John Paul II Seminary, a few...


Your Generosity Makes Our Mission Possible

If you’d like to support the care and formation of our seminarians in the Archdiocese of Washington, please consider offering a small monetary donation. Thank you and God bless you for your generosity!


Ready to dive in? Explore a vocation to the priesthood with the Archdiocese of Washington