Bishop W. Francis Malooly, western vicar of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, described Jesus' crucifixion during the Service of the Lord's Passion and Death as God's plan for redeeming love.
"It opens the gates of heaven for us," Malooly said after the service. "His purpose of coming to the earth was to give up his life so that we could have eternal life."
Malooly explained that while Good Friday has the perception of being "horrible" or even "excruciating" because of Jesus' suffering, it also sends a message of great love.
"Our Lord did this on his own ... It's 'good' because we are the beneficiaries," he said.
The service included the reading of the Passion - the final hours of Jesus' life, prayer, the Veneration of the Cross and Communion.
During the Veneration, parishioners approached the altar to kiss the cross, which had been held up by Malooly and the Rev. M. Shawn Mahon, the church's temporary administrator.
Those who were waiting in line and who already had returned to their seats sang the somber, but heartfelt lyrics, "Were you there when they crucified my Lord ... Sometimes it causes me to tremble ... Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree ..."
Parishioner Sarah Kelly of Hagerstown said she was touched as she watched the church members, especially some senior citizens who struggled to kneel before the cross, pay their highest honor to what it represents.
"I felt it was overwhelming," said Kelly, who teachers kindergarten Sunday school. "It was a peaceful kind of feeling."
"It does overtake you if you let yourself experience it and you feel it in your heart," said Sarah Kelly's mother, high school youth minister Teresa Kelly.
Malooly, during the service, urged the parishioners to live more like Christ, to carry the cross for the sake of others and to keep great confidence in the Catholic faith.
"We're called to be witnesses, to be disciples," Malooly said. "Walk more in his footsteps for the sake of (our) brothers and sisters ..."