Tag Archives: Ascension

Between Ascension and Pentecost

Last SupperIn the period between Ascension Thursday and Pentecost Sunday the Church gives us a reminder that we are to follow the key example of communion there is, the communion (unity) between God the Father and God the Son. Saint Cyril of Alexandria tells us that the unity of Father and Son is known in the Last Supper.

Cyril said,  “Who could separate those who are united to Christ through that one sacred body, or destroy their true union with one another? If we all share one loaf we all become one body, for Christ cannot be divided.”

I am grateful for this reminder in a time when there is so much division in our country, Church, and in our own hearts. The psalmist talks about the divided heart, the forked tongue; the spiritual masters speak against gossip (murmuring) and the seeds of division. Do we allow negativity and fear to rule our lives? Sadly, no seems to be free of the divisions caused by sin: not the laity, certainly not the clergy, not business people, not healthcare professionals and not the politicians and the like.

Only in Christ Jesus can we find our hope. Are we united to the Body of Christ –in sacrament, in Church, in family, with ourselves?

Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord

Ascension detailIn the Gospel according to St. Mark we read:

Jesus said to his disciples: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

Pope St. Leo the Great:
“Since the Ascension of Christ is our elevation, and since, where the glory of the Head has preceded its, there hope for the body is also invited, let us exult, dearly beloved, with worthy joy and be glad with a holy thanksgiving. Today we are estab­lished not only as possessors of Paradise, but we have even pen­etrated the heights of the heavens in Christ, prepared more fully for it through the indescribable grace of Christ which we had lost through the ill will of the devil.”

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.
Amen.

-Aeterne Rex altissime
(5th century) Translated

Ascension

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.

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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