Tag Archives: Ascension

The Lord’s going to heaven

Today’s solemn feast of the Ascension Lord requires us to meditate on its meaning and place in our spiritual life these days leading up to the Pentecost. Here is an excerpt of a homily by Saint Augustine:

As he was about to ascend, he spoke the last words he was to utter on earth. At the moment of going up to heaven, the head commended to our care the members he was leaving on earth, and so departed. No longer will you find Christ speaking on earth; in the future he will speak from heaven. Why will he speak from heaven? Because his members are being trampled underfoot on earth. He spoke to Saul the persecutor from above, saying: ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? I have ascended to heaven, but I still remain on the earth. Here at the Father’s right hand I sit, but there I still hunger and thirst and am without shelter’.

The Ascension of the Lord

The AscensionChrist above all glory seated!
King triumphant, strong to save!
Dying you have death defeated,
Buried, You have spoiled the grave.

You have gone where now is given
What no mortal might could gain,
On the eternal throne of heaven
In Your Father’s power to reign.

There your kingdoms all adore You
Heaven above and earth below;
While the depths of hell before You
Trembling and defeated bow.

We, O Lord, with hearts adoring,
Follow You beyond the sky;
Hear our prayers Your grace imploring,
Lift our souls to You on high!

So when You again in glory
On the clouds of heaven shall shine,
We Your flock may stand before You,
Owned forevermore as Thine.

Hail, all hail! In You confiding,
Jesus, we shall all adore,
In Your Father’s might abiding
With One Spirit evermore.

-Aeterne Rex altissime
(5th century) Translated


AscensionThe poetic text of Jesu, Nostra Redemptio sets the stage for articulating our Christian journey following the path set out by Our Lord in following Him. This text is truly an Ascension Thursday text. This journey of faith in following Jesus is a central aspect of our Christian faith that bespeaks of our desire to live in hope. The great Mother of our Savior and the apostles in the image recognize the accent of truth that is in the Divine Person of Jesus.

Ascension Thursday has a sadness to it, as the disciples part with Christ’s bodily presence among them even with the promise that the Great Comforter will be sent. It sounds strange to say “sadness” viz. the joy of the resurrection. As one theologian-friend said of the liturgical texts of the Byzantine Church, the Ascension has its “deepest theology of the feast in its Kontakion (…You ascended in glory, O Christ our God, not being parted from those who love You, but remaining with them and crying: “I am with you and no one will be against you!”). And yet, “parting is such sweet sorrow!”

Christians have an extended journey of conversion to make each year with Lent and then Eastertide, a time more intensely filled with anticipation and longing for the Divine Presence. Eastertide is not a spiritual time of standing back from spiritual work after Lent is over, but these 50 days are a new and intense phase of the Christian journey. One just has to think of the scriptures we heard proclaimed at Mass and the Divine Office during Easter. Nonetheless, the following text of Jesus our redemption sheds light and hope.

Jesu, nostra redemptio,
Amor et desiderium,
Deus Creator omnium,
Homo in fine temporum.

O Jesus, our redemption,
our love, and our desire,
God, Creator of all things,
become Man in the fullness of time.

Quae te vicit clementia,
Ut ferres nostra crimina,
Crudelem mortem patiens,,
Ut nos a morte tolleres!

What tender love, what pity
compelled Thee to bear our crimes,
to suffer a cruel death
that we, from death, might be saved?

Inferni claustra penetrans,
Tuos captivos redimens,
Victor triumpho nobili
Ad dextram Patris residens:

Into death’s dark cloister didst Thou descend,
and from it captives free didst bring;
Thy triumph won, Thou didst take Thy place,
Thou, the Victor, at the Father’s right.

Ipse te cogat pietas,
Ut mala nostra superes,
Parcendo, et voti compotes
Nos tuo vultu saties.

‘Twas a tender love, a costly compassion
that pressed Thee our sorrows to bear;
granting pardon, Thou didst raise us up
to fill us full with the splendour of Thy face.

Tu esto nostrum gaudium,
Qui es futurus praemium:
Sit nostra in te gloria
Per cuncta semper saecula.

Thou art already the joy of all our days,
Thou Who in eternity will be our prize;
let all our glory be in Thee,
forever, and always, and in the age to come.

The English text is translated by Fr Mark Daniel Kirby, OSB.

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

Rogation Days

rogation procession 2012.jpg

Just before Ascension Thursday, there are three days of prayer asking God to bestow his blessing on creation, particularly the on farms that produce the food we need for nourishment. We call these days minor Rogation Days, in comparison to the major Rogation Day is observed on April 25. “Rogation” comes from the Latin rogare, to ask, as in, to ask for God’s mercy, His blessings, His continued benevolence upon all creation. Whether major or minor days of asking, Christians have been doing this type of prayer since the time of Saint Gregory the Great (the major day) and Saint Mamertus (the minor days). This is good example of how we Christians connect trust and confidence in God and the work of human hands on the earth.

A Catholic sense of ecology always includes prayer and not merely a commitment to a green ideology. All of our thinking and acting is informed by our prayer, work and prayer, faith and reason. From a gesture of gratitude we give thanks to the Lord for the beauty of the earth. The key biblical passages prayed come from Psalm 69, Jeremiah 10-11: 1-16, James 5:16-20 and Luke 11:5-14.

In the Northeast we don’t see too much of Rogation Day observances with Mass, litanies and processions. Sad to see so little done in this area since there are lots of working farms here and it would be a good thing to make supplication to God. In the Midwest can be experienced. Farmers, gardeners, agricultural professionals and others, gather to pray for all who work on the land, for a favorable planting, growing, and harvesting season, and for safety and protection from natural disasters.

Some of the Benedictine monasteries will attend to Rogation Days in collaboration with the local pastor or bishop. In 2012, the Benedictine Sisters of St Benedict Monastery (Ferdinand, IN) for example, had a procession that went from their monastery to the local parish with Bishop Charles C. Thompson, bishop of the Diocese of Evansville. Offices of Catholic Rural Life in certain dioceses ought to be attentive to this ancient form of prayer.

Some places to read further: here and here (with a very good history of the Rogation Day practice).

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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]yahoo.com.
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