Category Archives: Easter, Ascension & Pentecost

Jesus’ Ascent into Heaven

English: Ubisi Monastery. Ascension of Jesus d...

Ubisi Monastery. Ascension of Jesus detail

The Ascension is the feast of the human. With Jesus, physical, carnal humanity enters into the total dominion with which God makes all things. It is Christ who goes to the root of everything. It is the feast of the miracle, an event which by its strength recalls the mystery of God.

This is why the Ascension is the feast where all of Mystery gathers together and where all of the evidence of things is gathered together. It is an extraordinary and very strange feast, where all the faces of all things meet to cry out to unaware, inattentive, obscure, and unseeing man the light of which they are made, to give him back the meaning by which he entered into relationship with everything, to shout out to him the task he has in things, his role among things. Everything depends on him; all things were made for man.

Whoever tries to render witness to the Lord with his life is already part of the mystery of His Ascension, because Christ who ascended into heaven is Man for whom everything is made, Man who has begun to take possession of the things of the world.

Father Luigi Giussani
The Holy Rosary

Holy Saturday from an Orthodox perspective

Holy Saturday is one of the mis-understood days the sacred Triduum. As a church body, we just don’t have a firm  grasp of what Mother Church has to say and experience. Several theologians, for example, Popes John Paul and Benedict, Hans Urs von Balthasar and Richard John Neuhaus have all tried to focus our attention on what God has done for us on Holy Saturday. Father Alexander Schmemann, an orthodox liturgical theologian and priest, is one of my favorite liturgical authors. Sadly, he died of cancer many years ago, but his work continues to bear much fruit, as I hope you will appreciate by reading the following entry. Since today is Holy Saturday for the Orthodox Church, I am offering for our meditation (a review?) the events of our salvation.

Great and Holy Saturday is the day on which Christ reposed in the tomb. The Church calls this day the Blessed Sabbath.

“The great Moses mystically foreshadowed this day when he said:

God blessed the seventh day.

This is the blessed Sabbath

This is the day of rest,

on which the only-begotten Son of God rested from all His works….” (Vesperal Liturgy of Holy Saturday)

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By using this title the Church links Holy Saturday with the creative act of God. In the initial account of creation as found in the Book of Genesis, God made man in His own image and likeness. To be truly himself, man was to live in constant communion with the source and dynamic power of that image: God. Man fell from God. Now Christ, the Son of God through whom all things were created, has come to restore man to communion with God. He thereby completes creation. All things are again as they should be. His mission is consummated. On the Blessed Sabbath He rests from all His works.


Holy Saturday is a neglected day in parish life. Few people attend the Services. Popular piety usually reduces Holy Week to one day–Holy Friday. This day is quickly replaced by another–Easter Sunday. Christ is dead and then suddenly alive. Great sorrow is suddenly replaced by great joy. In such a scheme Holy Saturday is lost.

In the understanding of the Church, sorrow is not replaced by joy; it is transformed into joy. This distinction indicates that it is precisely within death that Christ continues to effect triumph.

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The Time of the Holy Spirit is now

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In the days leading up to the great feast of Pentecost which we celebrate next week, it seems right that we look to what we know and believe about the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Advocate sent to us by the Trinity. 

We need to work in a concerted way to educate our religious sense on the gifts of the Holy Spirit that were given in the sacraments of Initiation. The Holy Spirit is not talked about too often in the teaching of the faith and you rarely hear of the Spirit in homilies. I would love to see a parish provide as part of their formation of adults an in-depth course on the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

It is noted by many that we lack a firm grasp of how the Holy Spirit leads and guides each one of us, and how the Spirit is the agent in the sacred Liturgy (Mass and the Divine Office). The Paulist Fathers’ evangelization work has mentioned recently that “Until we appropriate the Holy Spirit more fully in our Catholic consciousness, we will not have the spirituality to do the reaching out, welcoming, inviting, and sharing that are essential parts of our Catholic life and mission. Father Isaac Hecker, Servant of God, founded the Paulist Fathers will a strong spirituality of the Holy Spirit. Part of his cause for canonization might well include a greater awareness of the Spirit in our American/Canadian Catholic lives.”

Father Isaac Hecker is one of America’s priests who took evangelization and adult faith formation seriously. Let’s take inspiration from him.

New Haven Orthodox Christians celebrate Pascha

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The beauty and triumph of the Lord Jesus over death by His own death on the cross and subsequent resurrection from the dead is sadly celebrated by Christians on different dates. The divisions are scandalous. Western Christians had Easter on March 31, and Orthodox Christians will have their Easter, or Pascha, tonight. I hope, one day soon, all Christians can witness to the Lord’s resurrection on the same day. As Jesus said, ‘that they be one.”

In the meantime, New Haven’s Greek Orthodox community is small yet lively at Saint Basil’s Church. Connecticut has a rich history of Eastern Christianity, one that still needs to be told and appreciated. Ed Stannard of The New Haven Register wrote a story on the festivity and hope of Saint Basil’s.
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The Spirit changes us

At the Sacrifice of the Mass in St Peter’s Square, Pope Francis also celebrated the Rite of Confirmation with 44 people from around the world. As we approach Pentecost, this excerpt from his short homily is very instructive. Pay attention. Don’t forget to daily ask, no beg, for the Holy Spirit to have a special grace to embrace the day. May the Spirit be with these 44 newly confirmed in the Faith, indeed, all those around the world who are receiving the sacrament of Confirmation these days.

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This is the work of the Holy Spirit: he brings us the new things of God. He comes to us and makes all things new; he changes us. The Spirit changes us! And Saint John’s vision reminds us that all of us are journeying towards the heavenly Jerusalem, the ultimate newness which awaits us and all reality, the happy day when we will see the Lord’s face – that marvelous face, the most beautiful face of the Lord Jesus – and be with him for ever, in his love.

You see, the new things of God are not like the novelties of this world, all of which are temporary; they come and go, and we keep looking for more. The new things which God gives to our lives are lasting, not only in the future, when we will be with him, but today as well. God is even now making all things new; the Holy Spirit is truly transforming us, and through us he also wants to transform the world in which we live. Let us open the doors to the Spirit, let ourselves be guided by him, and allow God’s constant help to make us new men and women, inspired by the love of God which the Holy Spirit bestows on us! How beautiful it would be if each of you, every evening, could say: Today at school, at home, at work, guided by God, I showed a sign of love towards one of my friends, my parents, an older person!

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]
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