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Temporal Cycle

Under this heading of Proper of the Time, we here comprise the movable Office of the Sundays and Ferias of Advent. Though anxious to give to the faithful the flowers of the Advent liturgy, yet were we to bring forward even those which might be considered as the choicest, four volumes would have barely sufficed. The fear of making our work too expensive to the faithful, persuaded us to limit it within much narrower bounds, and out of the abundant treasures before us, to give what we thought could be least dispensed with.

The plan we have adopted is this: We give the whole of the Mass and Vespers for the four Sundays of Advent. On the ferial days, we give one, at least, of the lessons from Isaias, which are read in the Office of Matins; adding to this a hymn or sequence, or some other poetic liturgical composition. All these have been taken from the gravest sources, for example, from the Roman and Mozarabic breviaries, from the Greek anthology and menæa, from the missals of the middle ages, &c. After this hymn or sequence, we have given a prayer from the Ambrosian, Gallican, or Mozarabic missal. So that the faithful will find in our collection an unprecedented abundance of liturgical formulæ, each of which carries authority with it, as being taken from ancient and approved sources.

We have not thought it desirable to give a commentary to each of the liturgical formulæ inserted in our work. It seemed to us that they would be rendered sufficiently intelligible by the general explanation which runs through our work, in which explanation we have endeavoured to excite the devotion of the reader, give unity to the several parts, and afford solid instruction. We shall thus avoid all those repetitions and commonplace remarks, which do little more than fatigue the reader.

We have inserted the Great Antiphons and the Office of Christmas Eve in the proper of the saints, because both of these have fixed days in the calendar, and to put them in the proper of the time, as they stand in the breviary and missal, would have required us to introduce into a book, destined for the laity, rubrics somewhat complicated, which would, perhaps, not have been understood.

For more information on the season of Advent, visit here.

We apply the name of Christmas to the forty days which begin with the Nativity of our Lord, December 25, and end with the Purification of the Blessed Virgin, February 2. It is a period which forms a distinct portion of the Liturgical Year, as distinct, by its own special spirit, from every other, as are Advent, Lent, Easter, or Pentecost. One same Mystery is celebrated and kept in view during the whole forty days. Neither the Feasts of the Saints, which so abound during this Season; nor the time of Septuagesima, with its mournful Purple, which often begins before Christmastide is over, seem able to distract our Holy Mother the Church from the immense joy of which she received the good tidings from the Angels[1] on that glorious Night for which the world had been longing four thousand years. The Faithful will remember that the Liturgy commemorates this long expectation by the four penitential weeks of Advent.
[1] St Luke ii 10.

(From Chapter 1: The History of Christmas)

For more information on the season of Christmas, visit here.

This third section of the liturgical year is much shorter than the two preceding ones; and yet it is one of real interest. The season of Septuagesima has only three weeks of the Proper of the Time, and the feasts of the saints are far less frequent than at other periods of the year. The volume we now offer to the faithful may be called one of transition, inasmuch as it includes the period between two important seasons—viz., Christmas and Lent. We have endeavoured to teach them how to spend these three weeks; and our instructions, we trust, will show them that, even in this the least interesting portion of the ecclesiastical year, there is much to be learned. They will find the Church persevering in carrying out the one sublime idea which pervades the whole of her liturgy; and, consequently, they must derive solid profit from imbibing the spirit peculiar to this season.

Were we, therefore, to keep aloof from the Church during Septuagesima, we should not have a complete idea of her year, of which these three weeks form an essential part. The three preliminary chapters of this volume will convince them of the truth of our observation; and we feel confident that, when they have once understood the ceremonies, and formulas, and instructions, offered them by the Church during this short season, they will value it as it deserves.

For more information on the season of Septuagesima, visit here.

We begin, with this volume, the holy season of Lent; but such is the richness of its liturgy, that we have found it impossible to take our readers beyond the Saturday of the fourth week. Passion-week and Holy Week, which complete the forty days of yearly penance, require to be treated at such length, that we could not have introduced them into this volume without making it inconveniently large.

The present volume is a very full one, although it only comprises the first four weeks of the season of Lent. We have called it Lent; and yet the two weeks of the next volume are also comprised in Lent; nay, they are its most important and sacred part. But, in giving the name of Lent to this first section, we have followed the liturgy itself, which applies this word to the first four weeks only; giving to the two that remain the names of Passion-week and Holy Week. Our next volume will, therefore, be called Passiontide and Holy Week.

For more information on Lent, visit here.

After having proposed the forty-days’ fast of Jesus in the desert to the meditation of the faithful during the first four weeks of Lent, the holy Church gives the two weeks which still remain before Easter to the commemoration of the Passion. She would not have her children come to that great day of the immolation of the Lamb, without having prepared for it by compassionating with Him in the sufferings He endured in their stead.

(From Chapter 1: The History of Passiontide and Holy Week)

For more information on Passiontide and Holy Week, visit here.

WITH this volume we begin the season of Easter, wherein are accomplished the mysteries prepared for, and looked forward to, since Advent. Such are the liturgical riches of this portion of the Christian year, that we have found it necessary to devote three volumes to it.

The present volume is wholly taken up with Easter Week. A week is indeed a short period; but such a week as this, with the importance of the events it brings before us, and the grandeur of the mysteries it celebrates, is, at least, equivalent to any other section of our Liturgical Year. We have abridged our explanations as much as possible; and yet we have exceeded two-thirds of one of our ordinary volumes. Hence, it was out of the question to add the remaining weeks; the more so, as the saints’ feasts recommence on the Monday following the Easter Octave, and their insertion would have obliged us to have made our volume considerably more bulky than even that of Passiontide. We have, therefore, been satisfied with giving the Mass and Office of the Annunciation, already given in our volume for Lent, but which are needed for the Monday after Low Sunday, when Easter falls between March 22 and April 2, which is frequently the case.

For more information on Paschal Tide, visit here.

This volume opens to us the second part of the Liturgical Year, beginning the long period of the Time after Pentecost. It treats of the feasts of the most holy Trinity, of Corpus Christi, and of the sacred Heart of Jesus. These three feasts require to be explained apart. Their dates depend on that of Easter; and yet they are detached, if we consider their object, from the moveable cycle, whose aim is to bring before us, each year, the successive, and so to speak historic, memories of our Lord’s mysteries. After the sublime drama, which has, by gradually presenting to us the facts of our Redeemer’s history, shown us the divine economy of the redemption, these feasts immediately follow, and give us a deep and dogmatic teaching: a teaching which is a marvellous synthesis, taking in the whole body of Christian doctrine.

The Holy Ghost has come down upon the earth, in order to sanctify it. Faith being the one basis of all sanctification, and the source of love, the holy Spirit would make it the starting-point of His divine workings in the soul. To this end, He inspires the Church, which has sprung up into life under the influence of His impetuous breathing, to propose at once to the faithful that doctrinal summary, which is comprised in the three feasts immediately coming after Pentecost. The volumes following the present one will show us the holy Spirit continuing His work, and, on the solid foundations of the faith He established at the outset, building the entire superstructure of the Christian virtues.

This was the idea which the author of the Liturgical year was busy developing in the second part of his work, when death came upon him; and the pen that had begun this volume was put by obedience into the hands of one, who now comes before the faithful, asking their prayers for the arduous task he has undertaken, of continuing the not quite finished work of his beloved father and master. He begs of them to beseech our Lord, that He Himself will vouchsafe to bring to a successful termination an undertaking that was begun for His honour and glory, and that has already produced so much fruit in the souls of men.

Br. L.F. O.S.B.

Solesmes, May 10, 1879.

 

For more information on Time after Pentecost, visit here.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

O Rex gloriæ, Domine virtutum, qui triumphator hodie super omnes cœlos ascendisti, ne derelinquas nos orphanos; sed mitte promissum Patris in nos, Spiritum veritatis, alleluia.
O King of glory, Lord of hosts, who didst this day ascend in triumph above all the heavens! leave us not orphans, but send upon us the Spirit of truth, promised by the Father, alleluia.

Jesus has ascended into heaven. His Divinity had never been absent; hut, by the Ascension, His Humanity was also enthroned there, and crowned with the brightest diadem of glory. This is another phase of the mystery we are now solemnizing. Besides a triumph, the Ascension gave to the sacred Humanity a place on the very throne of the eternal Word, to whom it was united in unity of Person. From this throne, it is to receive the adoration of men and of angels. At the name of Jesus, Son of Man, and Son of God,—of Jesus who is seated at the right hand of the Father almighty,—'Every knee shall bend, in heaven, on earth and in hell.’[1]

Give ear, O ye inhabitants of earth! This is the Man Jesus, who heretofore was a little Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes; who went through Judea and Galilee, not having where to lay His head; who was bound by the sacrilegious hands of his enemies, was scourged, crowned with thorns, nailed to a cross; who, whilst men thus trampled Him, as a worm, beneath their feet, submitted His will to that of His Father, accepted the chalice of suffering, and, that He might make amends to the divine 

glory, shed His Blood for the redemption of you sinners. This Man Jesus, child of Adam through Mary the immaculate, is the master-piece of God’s omnipotence. He is 4 the most beautiful of the sons of men’;[2] the angels love to fix their gaze upon Him;[3] the blessed Trinity is well-pleased with Him; the gifts of grace bestowed on Him surpass all that men and angels together have ever received. But He came to suffer, and suffer for you; and though He might have redeemed you at a much lower price, yet would He generously overpay your debts by a superabundance of humiliation and suffering. What reward shall be given to Him? The apostle tells us in these words: 'He humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross; for which cause God also hath exalted Him, and hath given Him a name, which is above all names.’[4]

You, then, who compassionate with Him in the suffering whereby He wrought your redemption; you who devoutly follow Him in the stages of His sacred Passion; now raise up your heads, and look up to the highest heaven! Behold this Jesus ‘crowned with glory and honour because He suffered death’![5] See how the Father has magnified Him in return for His having 'emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant,’ though in His other nature, He was equal with God.[6] His crown of thorns is replaced by a crown of precious stones.[7] The cross that was laid on His shoulders is now the ensign of His power.[8] The wounds made by the nails and the spear are now like five bright suns that light up all heaven. Glory, then, he to the justice of the Father, who has dealt thus with His Son! Let us rejoice at seeing the Man of sorrows[9] become now the King of glory; and let us, with all the transport of our souls, repeat the hosanna wherewith the angels welcomed Him into heaven.

Nor must we suppose that the Son of Man now that He is seated on the throne of His Divinity, is inactive in His glorious rest. No; the sovereignty bestowed upon Him by the Father, is an active one. First of all, He is appointed Judge of the living and of the dead,[10] before whose judgement-seat we must all stand.[11] No sooner shall our soul have quitted the body, than she shall be presented before this tribunal, and receive from the lips of the Son of Man the sentence she will have deserved. O Jesus! by the glory Thou didst receive on the day of Thine Ascension, have mercy on us at that moment whereon depends eternity.

But the judgeship of our Lord Jesus Christ is not to be confined to this silent exercise of His sovereign power. The angels, who appeared to the apostles after His Ascension, told us that He is to come again upon the earth; that He is to descend through the clouds, as He ascended; and that then shall be the last judgement, at which the whole human race is to be present! Throned on a cloud, and surrounded by the angelic host, the Son of Man will show Himself to mankind, and this time with all majesty. Men shall see Him whom they pierced;[12] the imprints of those wounds, which will give additional beauty to His sacred Body, will be an object of terror to the wicked, while to the good they will be a source of unspeakable consolation. The shepherd, seated on His ethereal throne, will separate the goats from the sheep. His voice, after so many ages of silence, will make itself once more heard upon this earth: He will speak to impenitent sinners, condemning them to eternal torments; He will speak to the just, calling them to approach Him, and ascend, body and soul, into the region of everlasting bliss.

Meanwhile, He exercises over all nations the royal power, which He received, as Man, on the day of His Ascension. He redeemed us all by His Blood; we are therefore His people, and He is our King. He is, and He calls Himself, 'King of kings and Lord of lords.’[13] The kings of the earth reign not either by their own prowess, or by the boasted social compact; they lawfully reign by Christ alone. Peoples and nations are not their own masters; they belong to Christ and are His subjects. His law requires no sanction from man; it is above all human laws, and should be their guide and controller. ‘Why have the nations raged, and the people devised vain things? The kings of the earth stood up and the princes met together, against the Lord and against His Christ. They said: Let us break their bonds asunder, and let us cast away their yoke from us,’[14] How vain all these efforts! For, as the apostle says, ‘He must reign, until He hath put all His enemies under His feet.’[15] that is, until His second coming, when the pride of man and satan’s power shall both be at an end.

Thus, then, the Son of Man, crowned at His Ascension, must reign over the world to the end of time. But it will be objected: 'How can He be said to reign in these our times, when kings and emperors and presidents acknowledge that their authority comes from the people; and when the people themselves, carried away with the ideas of self-government and liberty and independence, have lost all idea of authority?’ And yet, He reigns; He reigns in His justice, since men refused to be guided by His clemency . They expunged His law from their statutes; they gave the rights of citizenship to error and blasphemy: then did He deliver them up, both people and rulers, to their own follies and lies. Authority and power have become ephemeral: and as they scorn to receive the consecration of the Church, the hand that holds them to-day, may be empty to-morrow. Then anarchy, then a new ruler, and then a fresh revolution. This will be the future, as it is the present, history of nations, until they once more acknowledge Jesus as their King, and resume the constitution of the ages of faith: ‘It is Christ that conquers! it is Christ that reigns! it is Christ that commands! May Christ preserve His people from all evil!'

On this Thy coronation-day, receive our devoted homage, O Jesus, our King, our Lord, our Judge! By our sins, we were the cause of Thy humiliations and sufferings; so much the more fervently, then, do we nite with the acclamations made to Thee by the angels when the royal diadem was placed on Thy head by the eternal Father. As yet, we but faintly see Thy grandeur; but the holy Spirit, whom Thou art about to send upon us, will teach us more and more of Thy sovereign power, for we are, and wish to be eternally, Thy humble and faithful subjects!

In the middle-ages, the Sunday within the octave of the Ascension was called the Sunday of roses, because it was the custom to strew the pavement of the churches with roses, as a homage to Christ who ascended to heaven when earth was in the season of flowers. How well the Christians of those times appreciated the harmony that God has set between the world of grace and that of nature! The feast of the Ascension, when considered in its chief characteristic, is one of gladness and jubilation, and spring’s loveliest days are made for its celebration. Our forefathers had the spirit of the Church; they forgot, for a moment, the sadness of poor earth at losing her Emmanuel, and they remembered how He said to His apostles: 'If ye loved Me, ye would be glad, because I go to the Father!’[16] Let us do in like manner; let us offer to Jesus the roses wherewith He has beautified our earth: their beauty and fragrance should make us think of Him who made them, of Him who calls Himself the flower of the field and the lily of the valleys.[17] He loved to be called Jesus of Nazareth; for Nazareth meaus a flower; and the symbol would tell us what a charm and sweetness there is in Him whom we serve and love as our God.

 

MASS

 

The Introit, which is taken from the Book of Psalms, expresses the longings of the Church to behold her Spouse, who has fled far from her. The faithful soul is possessed with the same desire; she unites in the prayer of our holy mother, and says to Jesus: ‘Oh! hearken to the wish of my heart, and show me Thy divine face!’

Introit

Exaudi, Domine, vocem meam, qua clamavi ad te, alleluia. Tibi dixit cor meum: Quæsivi vultum tuum, vultum tuum Domine requiram: ne avertas faciem tuam a me. Alleluia, alleluia.

Ps. Dominus illuminatio mea, et salus mea: quem timebo? ℣. Gloria Patri. Exaudi.
Hear, O Lord, my voice, with which I have cried out to thee, alleluia. My heart hath said to thee: I have sought thy face! I will seek thy face, O Lord: turn not thy face from me. Alleluia, alleluia.

Ps. The Lord is my light, and my salvation: whom shall I fear? Glory &c. Hear, &c.

The Church, in the Collect, teaches us to ask of God that good will, which will render us worthy of seeing our Jesus, by making us zealous in the service of His divine Majesty.

Collect

Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, fac nos tibi semper et devotam gerere voluntatem, et majestati tuæ sincero corde servire. Per Dominum.
O almighty and eternal God, inspire thy servants with true devotion, and grant that we may serve thy divine Majesty with sincere hearts. Through, &c.

A commemoration of the Ascension is added, by the Collect, page 176.


Epistle

Lectio Epistolæ beati Petri Apostoli.

I Cap. iv.

Charissimi, estote prudentes, et vigilate in orationibus. Ante omniaautem, mutuam in vobismetipsis chari- tatem continuam habentes: quia caritas operit multitudinem peccatorum. Hospitales invicem sine murmuratione. Unusquisque, sicut accepit gratiam, in alterutrum illam administrantes, sicut boni dispensatores multiformis gratiae Dei. Si quis loquitur, quasi sermones Dei: si quis ministrat, tamquam ex virtute, quam administrat Deus: ut in omnibus honorificetur Deus per Jesum Christum Dominum nostrum.
Lesson of the Epistle of Saint Peter the Apostle.

I Ch. iv.

Dearly beloved: Be prudent, and watch in prayers. But before all things have a constant mutual charity among yourselves: for charity covereth a multitude of sins. Using hospitality one towards another, without murmuring. As every man hath received grace, ministering the same one to another: as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If any man speak, let him speak as the words of God. If any man minister, let him do it as of the power which God administereth; that in all things God may be honoured through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The prince of the apostles, who presided over the holy assembly that awaited in the cenacle the descent of the divine Spirit, here addresses us, who are in expectation of the same great gift, and recommends us to practise fraternal charity. This virtue, says he, covereth a multitude of sins; could we make any better preparation for receiving the Holy Ghost? This Paraclete is coming that He may unite all men into one family; let us, then, put an end to all our dissensions, and prove ourselves to be members of the brotherhood established by the preaching of the Gospel. During these days of our preparing to receive the promised Comforter, the apostle bids us be prudent and watch in prayers. Let us follow his instruction; we must show our prudence by excluding everything that might be an obstacle to the Holy Ghost’s entering our hearts; and as to prayer, it is the means which will open our hearts to Him, that He may make them His own for ever.

The first of the two Alleluia-versicles is taken from the Psalms, and celebrates the majesty of Jesus upon His royal throne; the second is formed of the words of this same Saviour, promising us that He will return at the end of the world, when He comes to gather together His elect.

Alleluia, alleluia. ℣. Regnavit Dominus super omnes gentes: Deus sedet super sedem sanctam suam. Alleluia. ℣. Non vos relinquam or- phanos: vado et venio ad vos, et gaudebit cor vestrum. Alleluia.
Alleluia, alleluia. ℣. The Lord hath reigned over all nations: God sitteth upon his holy throne. Alleluia. ℣ I will not leave you orphans: I go, and I come to you, and your heart shall rejoice. Alleluia.

Gospel

Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Joannem.

Cap. xv., xvi.

In illo tempore: dixit Jesus discipulis suis: cum venerit Paraclitus, quem ego mittam vobis a Patre, Spiritum veritatis, qui a Patre procedit, ille testimonium perhibebit de me: et vos testimonium perhibebitis, quia ab initio mecum estis. Hæc locutus sum vobis, ut non scandalizemini. Absque synagogis facient vos: sed venit hora ut omnis, qui interficit vos, arbitretur obsequium se præstare Deo. Et hæc facient vobis, quia non noverunt Patrem, neque me. Sed hæc locutus sum vobis: ut, cum venerit hora eorum, reminiscamini quia ego dixi vobis.
Sequel of the holy Gospel according to John.

Ch. xv., xvi.

At that time: Jesus said to his disciples: when the Paraclete cometh, whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceedeth from the Father, he shall give testimony of me; and you shall give testimony, because you are with me from the beginning. These things have I spoken to you, that you may not be scandalized. They will put you out of the synagogues; yea the hour cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doth a service to God. And these things will they do to you, because they have not known the Father, nor me. But these things I have told you; that when the hour shall come, you may remember that I told you of them.

Here we have our Jesus telling us the effects, which the coming of the Holy Ghost will produce in our souls. These words were first addressed to the apostles, at the last Supper. He told them that the Paraclete would give testimony of Him, that is, would instruct them upon His Divinity, and teach them to be faithful to Him, even so as to lay down their lives for Him. A few moments before His Ascension, Jesus again spoke to them concerning the Paraclete, and called Him’the power from on high.’[18] Severe trials were awaiting these apostles; they would have to resist unto blood.[19] Who would be their support P For, of themselves, they were but weak men. The Holy Ghost, who was to abide with them. By Him they would conquer, and the Gospel would be preached to all nations. Now, this Spirit of the Father and of the Son is about to descend upon us; and what is the object of His visit, but that of arming us for the combat, and strengthening us against the attacks of our enemies? As soon as this holy season of Easter is over, and we no longer have the celebration of its mysteries to enlighten and cheer us, we shall find ourselves at the old work of battling with the three enemies: the devil, who is angered by the graces we have received; the world, to which we must unfortunately return; and our passions, which, after this calm, will again awaken, and molest us. If we be’endued with the power from on high’, we shall have nothing to fear. Let us, therefore, ardently desire to receive Him; let us prepare Him a worthy reception; let us use every endeavour to make Him abide with us; and we shall gain the victory, as did the apostles.

The Offertory gives us the words of the psalmist, describing the glories of Jesus’ Ascension. Holy Church wishes to impress the thought of this triumph well upon us, that our hearts may be fixed on the dear country, where our Jesus awaits us.

Offertory

Ascendit Deus in jubilatione: et Dominus in voce tubæ, alleluia.
God ascended in triumph, and the Lord at the sound of the trumpet, alleluia.

While offering to God the bread and wine, which are soon to be changed into the Body and Blood of Christ, the Church, in the Secret, prays that we may not only be made pure by our contact with these divine mysteries, but may also receive the vigour and energy which are so indispensably needed by every Christian.

Secret

Sacrificia nos, Domine, immaculata purificent: et mentibus nostris supernæ gratiæ dent vigorem. Per Dominum.
May these unspotted sacrifices purify us O Lord, and invigorate our souls with heavenly grace. Through, &c.

A commemoration is then made of the Ascension, by the Secret of the feast, given on page 182.


The Preface is that of the Ascension, page 182.


The Communion-anthem is formed of the words addressed by Jesus to His eternal Father, after having instituted the sacrament of the Eucharist, at the last Supper. They show us what His wishes are in our regard.

Communion

Pater, cum essem cum eis, ego servabam eos quos dedisti mihi, alleluia: nunc autem ad te venio: non rogo ut tollas eos de mundo, sed ut serves eos a malo. Alleluia, alleluia.
Father, when I was with them, I kept those whom thou gavest me, alleluia: now I return to thee: I do not pray that thou mayst take them out of the world, but that thou wouldst keep them from evil. Alleluia, alleluia.

Thanksgiving is the Christian’s first duty after receiving, in holy Communion, the Body and Blood of Christ. The Church, which appreciates so much more perfectly than we can ever do the greatness of the favour thus bestowed on us, prays, in her Postcommunion, that we may ever be giving thanks to our divine benefactor.

Postcommunion

Repleti, Domine, muneribus sacris: da quæsumus; ut in gratiarumsemper actione maneamus. Per Dominum.
Grant, we beseech thee, O Lord, that we may be always thankful for the sacred gifts, with which we have been filled. Through &c.

 

VESPERS

Antiphon of the Magnificat

Hæc locutus sum vobis, ut quum venerit hora eorum, reminiscamini, quia ego dixi vobis, alleluia.
OREMUS
Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, fac nos tibi semper et devotam gerere voluntatem, et majestati tuæ sincero corde servire. Per Dominum.
These things I have told you, that when the hour shall come, ye may remember that I told you, alleluia.
LET US PRAY
O almighty and eternal God, inspire thy servants with true devotion, and grant that we may serve thy divine Majesty with sincere hearts. Through, &c.

Let us offer to our triumphant Jesus the following beautiful hymn, which is used by the Church at the Matins of the feast of the Ascension, and during the octave. It forcibly expresses the mystery, and shows us how fervently we ought to celebrate it.

Hymn

Æterne rex altissime,
Redemptor et fidelium,
Cui mors perempta detulit
Summae triumphum gloriae.

Ascendis orbes siderum,
Quo te vocabat cœlitus
Collata, non humanitus,
Rerum potestas omnium.

Ut trina rerum machina
Cœlestium, terrestrium
Et inferorum condita,
Flectat genu jam subdita.

Tremunt videntes angeli
Versam vicem mortalium:
Peccat caro, mandat caro,
Regnat Deus Dei caro.

Sis ipse nostrum gaudium,
Manens Olympo præmium,
Mundi regis qui fabricam,
Mundana vincens gaudia.

Hinc te precantes quaesumus,
Ignosce culpis omnibus,
Et corda sursum subleva
Ad te superna gratia.

Ut cum repente coeperis
Clarere nube judicis,
Poenas repellas debitas,
Reddas coronas perditas.

Jesu, tibi sit gloria,
Qui victor in cœlum redis,
Cum Patre et almo Spiritu,
In sempiterna sæcula.

Amen.
O eternal and sovereign King,
and Redeemer of the faithful!
thy victory over death won for thee
a triumph of highest glory.

Thou ascendest above the starry world,
there to exercise thy supreme
power over all creatures,
—a power conferred by heaven, not by man.

Now the triple kingdom
of heaven, earth, and hell,
is subject to thee; and all things in them
bow the knee in homage to thy power.

The angels gaze with wonder on the change wrought in mankind:
it was flesh that sinned,
and now Flesh taketh all sin away,
and the God that reigns is the God made Flesh.

Be thou our joy, who awaitest us
to be our reward in heaven.
Thou art the ruler of this world;
our joy that surpasses all earthly joys.

Therefore do we beseech thee, in humble prayer,
that thou pardon all our sins,
and, by thy heavenly grace,
lift up our hearts to the things that are above.

That when thou appearest
suddenly on a bright cloud as our judge,
thou mayst forgive us the punishment we deserve,
and restore to us the crown we had lost.

Glory be to thee, O Jesus,
who ascendest in triumph to heaven!
and to the Father, and to the Spirit of love,
for everlasting ages.

Amen.

We may close the day with this prayer, taken from the Mozarabic breviary.

Prayer

Salvator noster, et Domine, qui ascendens in cœlos, intuentium clarificatus apparere dignatus es oculis: dum ita ut ascenderas, venturum ad judicium polliceris: fac nos hodiernæ Ascensionis tuae festum pura cordium devotione suscipere: ut ita in te semper ad melius vita nostra ascendendo proficiat, qualiter ad judicium venientem inconfusibili contuitu te semper visionis aspiciat. Amen.
O Jesus, our Saviour and Lord! who when ascending into heaven, didst deign to show thy glory to them that gazed upon thee, promising them, that as thou ascendest, so wouldst thou come to the judgment; grant that we may welcome, with true devotion of heart, this day’s feast of thine Ascension: that thus our lives, by continually ascending to what is more holy, may so advance in thy service, as that our eyes may look upon thee with a confiding look, when thou comest to judge us. Amen.

[1] Philipp. ii. 10.
[2] Ps. xliv. 3.
[3] 1 St. Pet. i 21.
[4] Philipp ii. 8, 9.
[5] Heb. ii. 9.
[6] Philipp. ii. 6,7.
[7] Ps. xx. 4.
[8] Is. ix. 6.
[9] Is. liii. 3.
[10] Acts, x. 42.
[11] Rom. xiv. 10.
[12] Zach. xii. 10.
[13] Apoc. xix. 16.
[14] Ps. ii. 1-3.
[15] 1 Cor. xv, 25.
[16] St. John, xiv. 28.
[17] Cant. ii, 1.
[18] St. Luke, xxiv. 49.
[19] Heb. xii. 4.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

O Rex gloriæ Domine virtutum, qui triumphator hodie super omnes cœlos ascendisti, ne derelinquas nos orphanos; sed mitte promissum Patris in nos, Spiritum veritatis, alleluia.
O King of glory, Lord of hosts, who didst this day ascend in triumph above all the heavens! leave us not orphans, but send upon us the Spirit of truth, promised by the Father, alleluia.

The kingship over men is not the only diadem given to our Emmanuel at His Ascension. The apostle expressly tells us that He is, moreover, ‘the Head of all principality and power.’[1] Noble indeed is man; hut nobler far are the glorious choirs of the angelic hierarchy. We have already seen that in the great trial, whereby God tested the love of His angels, many rebelled and were oast into hell; the rest, who were faithful, entered at once into the possession of their sovereign good, and began round the throne of God their ceaseless hymns of adoration, love, and thanksgiving.

But a portion of their happiness was reserved till the fulfilment of one of God’s decrees. Laden as they are with the most magnificent gifts, they await another; it is to be the completion of their joy and glory. God revealed to them, at the first instant of their coming into existence, that He intended to create other beings, of a nature inferior to their own; and that of these beings, who were to be composed of body and soul, there should be one, whom the eternal Word would unite to Himself in unity of Person. It was also revealed to them, that this human Nature, (for whose glory and for God’s, all things were made), was to be the first-born of every creature;[2] that all angels and men would have to bend the knee before Him; that after suffering countless humiliations on earth, He would be exalted in heaven; and finally that the time would be, when the whole hierarchy of heaven, the Principalities and Powers, yea, even the Cherubim and Seraphim, would have Him placed over them as their King.

The angels, then, as well as men, looked forward to the coming of Jesus. The angels awaited Him that was to confer upon them their final perfection, give them unity under Himself as their head, and bring them into closer union with God by the union of the divine and created Natures in His own Person. As to us men, we awaited Him as our Redeemer and our mediator: as our Redeemer, because sin had closed heaven against us, and we needed one that would restore us to our inheritance; as our mediator, because it was the eternal decree of God to communicate His own glory to the human race by union with Himself. Whilst, therefore, the just ones on earth, who lived before the Incarnation, were pleasing to God by their faith in this future Redeemer and mediator, the angels in heaven were offering to the divine Majesty the homage of their proffered service of this Man-God, their future King, who, in virtue of the eternal decree, was ever present to the Ancient of days.[3]

At length the fulness of time came,[4] and God, as the apostle expresses it, ‘brought into the world His first-begotten’,[5] the prototype of creation. The first to adore the new-born King were not men, but the angels, as the same apostle assures us.[6] The royal prophet hed foretold that it would be so.[7] And was it not just? These blessed spirits had preceded us in their longings, not indeed for a Redeemer,—for they had never sinned,—but for a mediator, who was to be the link of their closer union with infinite beauty, the object of their eternal delight; in a word, who was to fill up the void there seemed to be even in heaven, by taking the place destined for Him.

Then was accomplished that act of adoration of the Man-God, which was demanded of the angels at the first moment of their creation, and which, according to its being complied with or refused, decided the eternal lot of these noble creatures. With what love did the faithful angels adore Jesus, the Word made Flesh, when they beheld Him in His Mother’s arms at Bethlehem! With what transports of joy did they announce to the shepherds, and to us through them, the glad tidings of the birth of our common King!

As long as He lived upon this earth and submitted to every humiliation and suffering in order to redeem us from sin and make us worthy to become His members, the blessed spirits ceased not to contemplate and adore Him. The Ascension came; and from that day forward, it is on the throne prepared at the Father’s right hand that they behold and adore their Lord and King. At the solemn moment of Jesus’ Ascension, a strange joy was felt in each choir of the heavenly hierarchy, from the burning Seraphim to the Angels who are nearest to our own human nature. The actual possession of a good, whose very expectation had filled them with delight, produced an additional happiness in those already infinitely happy spirits. They fixed their enraptured gaze on Jesus’ beauty, and were lost in astonishment at seeing how Flesh could so reflect the plenitude of grace that dwelt in that human Nature as to outshine their own brightness. And now, by looking on this Nature (which, though inferior to their own, is divinized by its union with the eternal Word), they see into further depths of the uncreated sea of light. Their love is more burning, their zeal is more impetuous, their hymns are more angelic; for, as the Church says of them, the Angels and Archangels, the Powers and Dominations, the Cherubim and Seraphim, praise the majesty of the Father through His Son Jesus Christ: per quem majestatem tuam laudant angeli.

Add to this the joy these heavenly spirits must have experienced at seeing the immense multitude that accompanied Jesus from earth to heaven. These, according to their respective merits, were divided among the various choirs, and placed on thrones left vacant by the fallen angels. Their bodies, are not yet united to their souls; but is not their flesh already glorified in that of Jesus? When the time fixed for the general resurrection comes, the trumpet of the great archangel will be heard,[8] and then these happy souls will again put on their ancient vesture, the mortal made immortal. Then will the holy angels, with fraternal enthusiasm, recognize in Adam’s features a likeness of Jesus, and in those of Eve a likeness of Mary, and the resemblance will even be greater than it was when our first parents were innocent and happy in the garden of Eden. Come quickly, O thou glorious day, whereon the bright mystery of the Ascension is to receive its final completion, and the two choirs of angels and men are to be made one in love and praise under the one Head, Christ Jesus!

It is St. Ambrose who is to help us to-day, by the following beautiful hymn, to celebrate the mystery of the triumph of our human nature in Jesus. The hymn is inserted in the breviary of Milan.

Hymn

Optatus votis omnium
Sacratus illuxit dies
Quo Christus, mundi spes, Deus,
Conscendit cœlos arduos.

Ascendens in altum Dominus,
Propriam ad sedem remeans,
Gavisa sunt cœli regna,
Reditu Unigeniti.

Magni triumphum praelii!
Mundi perempto principe,
Patris præsentat vultibus
Victricis carnis gloriam.

Est elevatus nubibus
Et spem fecit credentibus,
Aperiens paradisum,
Quem protoplastus clauserat.

O grande cunctis gaudium!
Quod partus nostræ Virginis,
Post sputa, flagra, post crucem,
Paternæ sedi jungitur.

Agamus ergo gratias
Nostræ salutis vindici,
Nostrum quod corpus vexerit
Sublimem ad cœli regiam.

Sit nobis cum cœlestibus
Commune manens gaudium,
Illis quod se præsentavit,
Nobis quod se non abstulit.

Nunc provocatis actibus
Christum exspectare nos decet,
Vitaque tali vivere,
Quae possit cœlos scandere.

Gloria tibi Domine,
Qui scandis super sidera,
Cum Patre et sancto Spiritu
In sempiterna saecula.

Amen.
The sacred day, longed for by us all,
hath shone upon us: the day whereon Christ our God,
the hope of the world,
ascended to the highest heavens.

When our Lord ascended on high,
returning to his rightful throne,
the kingdom of heaven rejoiced,
for it was the return of the Only-begotten of the Father.

O triumph of the great battle!
Having defeated the prince of this world,
Jesus presents to his Father the Flesh
that had won the glorious victory.

He was raised up on a cloud,
and opening the gate of heaven,
which our first parent had closed against us,
he inspired believers with hope.

What a joy was this to all mankind,
that the Son of our Virgin-Mother,
after being spit upon, and scourged, and crucified,
was placed upon his Father’s throne!

Let us, then, give thanks to him that avenged us
and wrought our salvation,
for that he took our flesh
and made it dwell in the heavenly courts above.

Let there be a lasting fellowship of joy
between the angels and us;
they rejoice because he offered himself to their delighted gaze;
we, because he ceased not to be our Brother.

It behoves us now,
by the practice of virtues of which he has set us the example,
to await our union with Christ,
and so to live as to merit our ascension into heaven.

Glory be to thee, O Lord,
who ascendest above the stars!
and to the Father, and to the Holy Ghost,
for everlasting ages.

Amen.

We may use this prayer of the Mozarabic breviary wherewith to close the day.

Christe Dei virtus, et Dei sapientia, qui propter nos, et nostram salutem descendens e cœlis, humani generis carne vestiri dignatus es, ut dignissima societate nos tua Deitate vestires, et quod mortale descendendo susceperas, immortalitati ascendendo donares; tribue nobis interventu solemnitatis hodiernæ, qua te cœlos ascendentem et sequi cupimus et gaudemus, ut benignissimae dispensationis hujus munera cognoscentes, reddamus pietati tuæ quod solum possumus, vota laudum; exspectantes secundi adventus tui aeternorum solatia gaudiorum.
O Jesus! the power and wisdom of God! who coming down from heaven for our sake and for our salvation, deignedst to clothe thyself in human flesh, that, by a most merciful union, thou mightest clothe us with thy divinity, and that, by ascending into heaven, thou mightest enrich with immortality the mortality thou assumedst by descending upon our earth: grant, we beseech thee, by the merit of this day’s solemnity, (whereon we rejoice at and desire to imitate thine Ascension,) that we may acknowledge the favour of this most loving dispensation, by paying to thy mercy the only homage in our power, the offering of our praise; and awaiting thy second coming which is to console us with joys eternal.

 


[1] Coloss ii. 10.
[2] Coloss. i. 15.
[3] Dan. vii. 9.
[4] Gal. iv. 4.
[5] Heb. i. 6.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ps. xcvi. 7.
[8] 1 Thess. iv. 15.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

O Rex gloriæ, Domine virtutum, qui triumphator hodie super omnes cœlos ascendisti, ne derelinquas nos orphanos; sed mitte promissum Patris in nos, Spiritum veritatis, alleluia.
O King of glory, Lord of hosts, who didst this day ascend in triumph above all the heavens! leave us not orphans, but send upon us the Spirit of truth, promised by the Father, alleluia.

The Lord of glory has ascended into heaven, and, as the apostle says, He has gone thither as our forerunner;[1] but how are we to follow Him to this abode of holiness, we whose path is beset with sin, we who are ever needing pardon rather than meriting anything like glory? This brings us to another consequence of the exhaustless mystery of the Ascension; let us give it our closest attention. Jesus has gone to heaven, not only that He may reign as King, but also that He may intercede for us as our High Priest, and, in this quality, obtain for us both the pardon of our sins and the graces we need for following Him to glory. He offered Himself on the cross as a victim of propitiation for our sins; His precious Blood was shed as our superabundant ransom; but the gate of heaven remained shut against us, until He threw it open by His own entrance into that sanctuary, where He was to exercise His eternal office of’Priest according to the order of Melchisedech.’[2] By His Ascension into heaven, His priesthood of Calvary was transformed into a priesthood of glory. He entered with the veil of His once passible and mortal Flesh,[3] within the veil of His Father’s presence, and there is He our Priest for ever.

How truly is He called Christ, that is,’the Anointed!’ for, no sooner was His divine Person united to the human Nature, than He received a twofold anointing: He was made both King and High Priest. We have already meditated upon His kingship; let us now contemplate His priesthood. He gave proofs of both during His life among us on earth; but it was only by His Ascension that their unclouded splendour was to be declared. Let us, then, follow our Emmanuel, and see Him as our High Priest.

The apostle thus describes the office of a high priest.’He is taken from among men, and is ordained for men in the things that appertain to God that he may offer up gifts and sacrifices for sins’:[4] he is appointed their ambassador and mediator with God. Jesus received this office and ministry, and He is fulfilling it in heaven. But, that we may the better appreciate the grand mystery, let us study the figures given of it in the holy Scriptures, and developed by St. Paul in his sublime Epistle; they will give us a precise idea of the grandeur of our Jesus’ pontifical character.

Let us go in thought to the temple of Jerusalem. First of all there is the spacious uncovered court with its porticoes; in the centre stands the altar, whereon are slain the victims of the various sacrifices, and from the altar there radiate a number of conduits, through which flows the blood. We next come to a more sacred portion of the edifice; it is beyond the altar of holocausts, is covered in, and is resplendent with all the riches of the east. Let us respectfully enter, for the place is holy, and it was God Himself who gave to Moses the plan of the various fittings which adorn it with their mysterious and rich beauty: the altar of incense, with its morning and evening cloud of fragrance; the seven-branched candlestick, with its superb lilies and pomegranates; the table of the loaves of proposition, representing the offering made by man to Him who feeds him with the harvests of the earth. And yet it is not here, though the walls are wainscoted with the bright gold of Ophir, that is centred the great majesty of Jehovah. At the extreme end of the temple there is a veil of precious texture, richly embroidered with figures of the Cherubim, and reaching to the ground: it is there, beyond this veil, that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, has fixed the abode of His presence; it is there, also, that rests the ark of the covenant, over which two golden Cherubim spread their wings. It is called the Holy of holies, and no one, under pain of death, may draw aside the veil, or look, or enter within the hallowed precinct, where the God of hosts deigns to dwell.

So then, man is banished from the place wherein God dwells; he is unworthy to enter into so holy a presence. He was created that he might see God and be eternally happy with that vision; but, because of sin, he is never to enjoy the sight of God. There is a veil between himself and Him who is his last end; neither can he ever remove that veil. Such is the severe lesson given to us by the symbolism of the ancient temple.

But there is a merciful promise, and it gives a gleam of hope. This veil shall one day be raised up, and man shall enter within: on one condition, however. Let us return to the figurative temple, and we shall learn what this condition is. As we have already noticed, none was allowed to enter the Holy of holies; there was but one exception, and that was in favour of the high priest, who might, once a year, penetrate beyond the veil. Yet even he had certain conditions to observe. If he entered without holding in his hands a vessel containing the blood of two victims, previously immolated by him for his own and the people’s sins, he was to be put to death; if, on the contrary, he faithfully complied with the divine ordinances, he would be protected by the blood he carried in his hands, and might make intercession for himself and all Israel.

How beautiful and impressive are these figures of the first covenant! but how much more so their fulfilment in our Jesus’ Ascension! Even during the period of His voluntary humiliations, He made His power felt in this sacred dwelling of God’s Majesty. His last breath on the cross rent the veil of the Holy of holies, hereby signifying to us that man was soon to recover the right he had lost by sin, the right of admission into God’s presence. We say soon; for Jesus had still to gain the victory over death, by His Resurrection; He had to spend forty days on earth, during which He, our High Priest, would organize the true priesthood that was to be exercised in His Church to the end of time, in union with the priesthood He Himself was to fulfil in heaven.

The fortieth day came, and found all things prepared: the witnesses of the Resurrection had proclaimed the victory of their master; the dogmas of faith had all been revealed; the Church had been formed; the sacraments had been instituted: it was time for our High Priest to enter into the Holy of holies, accompanied by the holy souls of limbo. Let us follow Him with the eye of our faith. As He approached, the veil, that had closed the entrance for four thousand years, was lifted up. Jesus enters. Has He not offered the preparatory sacrifice?—not the figurative sacrifice of the old law, hut the real one of His own Blood P And having reached the throne of the divine Majesty, there to intercede for us His people, He has but to show His eternal Father the wounds He received, and from which flowed the Blood that satisfied every claim of divine justice. He would retain these sacred stigmata of His sacrifice, in order that He might ever present them, as our High Priest, to the Father, and so disarm His anger.’My little children,’ says St. John in his first Epistle, ‘I write these things to you, that ye may not sin; but, if any man do sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the just.’[5] Thus, then, beyond the veil, Jesus treats of our interests with His Father; He gives the merits of His sacrifice their full efficacy; He is the eternal High Priest, whose advocacy is irresistible.

St. John, who was granted a sight of the interior of heaven, gives us a sublime description of this twofold character of our divine Head,—Victim and yet King, sacrificed and yet immortal. He shows us the throne of Jehovah, round which are seated the four-and-twenty ancients, the four symbolical living creatures, and then the seven spirits burning like lamps before it. But the prophet does not finish his description here. He bids us look at the right hand of Him who sits on the throne. There we perceive a Lamb standing and as it were slain: slain and yet standing, for He is radiant with glory and power.[6] We should be at a loss to understand the vision, had we not our grand mystery of the Ascension to explain it; but now, all is clear. We recognize in the Lamb, portrayed by the apostle, our Jesus, the Word eternal, who, being consubstantial with the Father, is seated on the same throne with Him. Yet is He also the Lamb; for He assumed to Himself our flesh, in order that He might be sacrificed for us as a victim; and this character of victim is to be for ever upon Him. Oh! see Him there, in all His majesty as Son of God, standing in the attitude of infinite power, yet withal, He will not part with the semblance of the immolated. The sword of sacrifice has left five wounds upon Him, and He would keep them for eternity. Yes, it is identically the same meek Lamb of Calvary, and He is to be for ever consummating in glory the immolation He perfected on the cross.

Such are the stupendous realities seen by the angels within the veil;[7] and when our turn comes to pass that veil, we also shall be enraptured with the sight. We are not to be left outside, as were the Jewish people when, once each year, their high priest entered into the Holy of holies. We have the teaching of the apostle:’The fore-runner, Jesus, our High Priest, has entered within the veil for us.’[8] For us! Oh what music there is in these two words: for us! He has led the way; we are to follow! Even at the commencement, He would not go alone; He would have the countless legion of the souls of limbo to accompany Him: and ever since then, the procession into heaven has been one of unbroken magnificence. The apostle tells us that we, poor sinners as we are, are already saved by hope;[9] and what is our hope, but that we are one day to enter into the Holy of holies? Then shall we blend our glad voices with those of the angels, the four-and- twenty ancients, the myriads of the blessed, in the eternal hymn:’To the Lamb that was slain, power, and divinity, and wisdom, and strength, and glory, and benediction, for ever and ever! Amen.’[10]

We offer our readers, to-day, the following sequence, composed by the pious Notker, in the ninth century, for the abbey of Saint Gall.

Sequence

Christus hunc diem jucundum
Cunctis concedat esse Christianis,
Amatoribus suis.

Christe Jesu, Fili Dei,
Mediator nostrae naturae
Ac divinae.

Terras Deus visitasti aeternus,
Æthera novus homo
Transvolans.

Officiis te angeli atque nubes
Stipant, ad Patrem
Reversurum.

Sed quid mirum,
Cum lactanti adhuc
Stella tibi serviret
Et angeli?

Tu hodie terrestribus
Rem novam et dulcem
Dedisti, Domine,
Sperandi cœlestia.

Tu hominem non fictum
Levando super sidereas metas,
Regum Domine.

Quanta gaudia
Tuos replent apostolos,
Quis dedisti cernere
Te cœlos pergere.

Quam hilares
In cœlis tibi occurrunt
Novem ordines,

In humeris portanti
Diu dispersum a lupis,
Gregem unum,

Quem Christe,
Bone Pastor,
Tu dignare custodire.

Amen.
May Christ our Lord grant to all Christians,
who love him, that this day may be
to them a happy one!

O Christ Jesus! Son of God!
thou unitest in thyself the two natures
of God and Man.

Thou the eternal God didst visit our earth;
thou the new Man,
didst ascend into heaven.

The angels and the clouds
paid the homage of their service to thee,
when thou returnedst to thy Father;

And need we wonder at it,
when we remember how,
when thou wast a Babe at thy Mother’s breast,
a star united with the angels in serving thee?

Thou, O Lord, this day,
gavest to the inhabitants of earth
a new and sweet sentiment:
the hope of heaven,

By placing our nature,
—which thou, O King of kings, hadst truly assumed,
—above the highest stars.

O what joy filled
the hearts of thine apostles,
whom thou permittedst to see thee
mounting up to heaven!

How joyfully
did the nine choirs of angels go forth
to meet thee as thou enteredst heaven,

Carrying on thy shoulders
the sheep, thy one flock,
that had long been scattered by wolves!

O Jesus!
Good shepherd!
vouchsafe to watch over this thy flock!

Amen.

Prayer

Domine Jesu Christe, creator astrorum, qui inclinasti capita nubium,dum te humiliasti in conversatione mortalium: ut in eo corpore, quo pro nobis probra sustinuisti impiorum, in ipso ascenderes super omnes cœlos cœlorum, et laudes sumeres angelorum; exaudi nos propitius, et hoc nobis concede placatus, ut, absoluti criminibus, illuc te nunc prævium sequamur corde, quo tu ascendisti glorificatus in homine; ut te etiam tunc contemplari possimus conditorem et Dominum aeternum in majestate, quem nunc verum Deum præstolamur et judicem. Amen.
O Lord Jesus Christ, Creator of the stars! who bowedst down the heads of the lofty clouds when thou humbly camest to live among men; and who, in that same body, wherein, for our sake, thou sufferedst insult from the wicked, didst ascend above the heaven of heavens and receive the praises of angels: graciously hear our prayer, and mercifully grant, that, being freed from sin, we may follow thee in desire to the region whither thou hast ascended in thy glorified Humanity; that thus we may, one day, see thee in thy Majesty, our Creator and eternal Lord, whom we now await as our God and Judge. Amen.

Prayer

Domine Jesu Christe, qui ascendisti super cœlos cœlorum ad orientem, occasum devincens; quos in te suscepisti redimendos, in te perfice ad excelsa tollendos: ut ubi caput præcessit glo- rificatum, illuc totum corpus adtrahas honorandum: nec in occiduum mundi relinquas, quos ad orientem perpetuum versus triumphator exaltas.
O Lord Jesus Christ! Who ascendest above the heaven of heavens to the east, after triumphing over thine own setting in the west; complete the work of our redemption, by raising us to the courts above. Thou, our Head, hast preceded us in glory; oh! draw thither, after thee, the whole body of thy Church, thy members, whom thou callest to share in thine honour. Leave not, we beseech thee, in the inglorious west of this world, those whom thou, the triumphant conqueror, hast raised, by thine own Ascension, to the everlasting east.

[1] Heb. vi. 20.
[2] Ps. cix. 4.
[3] Heb. vi. 19; x. 20.
[4] Ibid. v. 1.
[5] 1 St. John, ii. l.
[6] Apoc. iv. v.
[7] Heb. vi. 19.
[8] Ibid, 20.
[9] Rom. viii. 24.
[10] Apoc. v. 12, 13.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

O Rex gloriæ, Domine virtutum, qui triumphator hodie super omnes cœlos ascendisti, ne derelinquas nos orphanos; sed mitte promissum Patris in nos Spiritum veritatis, alleluia.
O King of glory, Lord of hosts, who didst this day ascend in triumph above all the heavens! leave us not orphans, but send upon us the Spirit of truth, promised by the Father, alleluia.

Let us now look upon the earth, for our eyes have hitherto been riveted upon the heaven into which our Jesus has entered. Let us see what effects the mystery of the Ascension has produced on this land of our exile. These effects are of the most extraordinary nature. This Jesus, who ascended into heaven unknown to the city of Jerusalem, and whose departure, when it did become known, excited neither regret nor joy among the men of that generation,—now, eighteen hundred years after His departure from us, finds the whole earth celebrating the anniversary of His glorious Ascension. Our age is far from being one of earnest faith; and yet there is not a single country on the face of the globe, where, if there be a church or chapel or even a Catholic home, the feast of Jesus’ Ascension is not being now kept and loved.

He lived for three-and-thirty years on our earth. He, the eternal Son of our God, dwelt among His creatures, and there was only one people that knew it. That one favoured people crucified Him. As to the Gentiles, they would have thought Him beneath their notice. True, this beautiful’light shone in the darkness; but the darkness did not comprehend it; He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.’[1] He preached to His chosen people; but His word was that seed which falls on stony ground, and takes no root, or is cast among thorns and is choked; it could with difficulty find a plot of good ground, wherein to bring forth fruit.[2] If, thanks to His infinite patience and goodness, He succeeded in keeping a few disciples around Him, their faith was weak and hesitating, and gave way when temptation came.

And yet, ever since the preaching of these same apostles, the name and glory of Jesus are every where; in every language, and in every clime, He is proclaimed the Incarnate Son of God; the most civilized, as well as the most barbarous nations, have submitted to His sweet yoke; in every part of the universe men celebrate His birth in the stable of Bethlehem, His death on the cross whereby He ransomed a guilty world, His resurrection whereby He strengthened the work He came to do, and His Ascension, which gives Him, the Man-God, to sit at the right hand of His Father. The great voice of the Church carries to the uttermost bounds of the earth the mystery of the blessed Trinity, which He came to reveal to mankind. This holy Church, founded by Him, teaches the truths of faith to all nations, and in every nation there are souls who are docile to her teaching.

How was this marvellous change brought about? What has given it stability during these eighteen hundred years? Our Saviour Himself explains it to us, by the words He spoke to His apostles after the last Supper: ‘It is,’ said He,’expedient to you that I go.’[3] What means this, but that there is something more advantageous to us than having Him visibly present amongst us? This mortal life is not the time for seeing and contemplating Him, even in His human Nature. To know Him, and relish Him, even in His human Nature, we stand in need of a special gift; it is faith. Now, faith in the mysteries of the Incarnate Word did not begin its reign upon the earth, until He ceased to be visible here below.

Who could tell the triumphant power of faith? St. John gives it a glorious name; he says:’It is the victory which overcometh the world.’[4] It subdued the world to our absent King; it subdued the power and pride and superstitions of paganism; it won the homage of the earth for Him who has ascended into heaven, the Son of God and the Son of Mary, Jesus.

St. Leo the Great, the sublime theologian of the mystery of the Incarnation, has treated this point with his characteristic authority and eloquence. Let us listen to his glorious teaching.’Having fulfilled all the mysteries pertaining to the preaching of the Gospel and to the new Covenant, our Lord Jesus Christ ascended into heaven, in the sight of His disciples, on the fortieth day after His Resurrection; hereby withdrawing His corporal presence, for He was to remain at the right hand of His Father until should be filled up the measure of time decreed by God for the multiplication of the children of the Church, and He (Jesus) should again come, and in the same Flesh wherewith He ascended, to judge the living and the dead. Thus, therefore, that which in our Redeemer had hitherto been visible passed into the order of mysteries. And to the end that faith might be grander and surer, teaching took the place of sight; which teaching was to be accepted by the faithful with hearts illumined by heavenly light.

This faith, increased by our Lord’s Ascension, and strengthened by the gift of the Holy Ghost, was proof against every trial; so that neither chains, nor prisons, nor banishment, nor hunger, nor fire, nor wild beasts, nor all the ingenuity of cruelty and persecution, could affright it. For this faith, not only men, but even women, not only beardless boys but even tender maidens, fought unto the shedding of their blood, and this in every country of the world. This faith cast out devils from such as were possessed, cured the sick, and raised the dead to life. The blessed apostles themselves,—who, though they had so often witnessed their Master’s miracles and heard His teachings, turned cowards when they saw Him in His sufferings, and hesitated to believe His Resurrection,—these same, I say, were so changed by His Ascension, that what heretofore had been a subject of fear, then became a subject of joy. And why? Because the whole energy of the soul’s contemplation was raised up to Jesus’ Divinity, now seated at the right hand of His Father; the vigour of the mind’s eye was not dulled by the bodily vision, and they came to the clear view of the mystery, namely, that He neither left the, Father when He descended upon the earth, nor left His disciples when He ascended into heaven.

Never, then, was Jesus so well known, as when He withdrew Himself into the glory of His Father’s majesty, and became more present by His Divinity in proportion as He was distant in His Humanity. Then did faith, made keener, approach to the Son coequal with His Father; she needed not the handling of the bodily substance of her Christ,—that bodily substance, whereby He is less than His Father, The substance of His glorified Body is the same; but our faith was to be of so generous a kind, that we were to go to the coequal Son, not by a corporal feeling, but by a spiritual understanding. Hence, when Mary Magdalene, who represented the Church, threw herself at the feet of the risen Jesus, and would have embraced them, He said to her: Touch Me not, for I am not yet ascended to My Father; as though He would say: I will not that thou come to Me corporally, or that thou know Me by the testimony of thy senses. I have a sublimer recognition in store for thee; I have prepared something far better for thee. When I shall have ascended to My Father, then shalt thou feel Me in a higher and truer way; for thou shalt grasp what thou touchest not, and believe what thou seest not.’[5]

The departure of our Emmanuel was, therefore, the opening of that reign of faith, which is to prepare us for the eternal vision of the sovereign Good; and this blessed faith, which is our very life, gives us, at the same time, all the light compatible with our mortal existence, for knowing and loving the Word consubstantial with the Father, and for the just appreciation of the mysteries which this Incarnate Word wrought here below in His Humanity. It is now eighteen hundred years since He lived on the earth; and yet we know Him better than His disciples did before His Ascension. Oh! truly it was expedient for us that He should go from us; His visible presence would have checked the generosity of our faith; and it is our faith alone that can bridge over the space which is to be between Himself and us until our ascension comes, and then we shall enter within the veil.

How strangely blind are those who see not the superhuman power of this element of faith, which has not only conquered, but even transformed, the world! Some of them have written long treatises to prove that the Gospels were not written by the evangelists: we pity their ravings. But these great discoverers have another difficulty to get over, and so far they have not attempted to grapple with it; we mean the living Gospel which is the production of the unanimous faith of eighteen centuries, and is the result of the courageous confession of so many millions of martyrs, of the holiness of countless men and women, of the conversion of so many both civilized and uncivilized nations. Assuredly He,—who after having spent a few short years in one little spot of earth, had but to disappear in order to draw men’s hearts to Himself so that the brightest intellects and the purest minds gave Him their faith,—must be what He tells us He is: the eternal Son of God. Glory, then, and thanks to Thee O Jesus! who to console us in Thine absence, hast given us faith, whereby the eye of our soul is purified, the hope of our heart is strengthened, and the divine realities we possess tell upon us in all their power! Preserve within us this precious gift of Thy gratuitous goodness; give it increase; and when our death comes,—that solemn hour which precedes our seeing Thee face to face,—Oh, give us the grand fullness of our dearest faith!

One of the most northern of the Churches, now, alas! a slave to Lutheranism, shall provide us to-day with a hymn in honour of the mystery we are celebrating. It is a sequence taken from the last missal of Abo, in Finland. It was composed in the fourteenth or fifteenth century.

Sequence

Omnes gentes plaudite,
Festos choros ducite,
Christo triumphante;
Redit cum victoria,
Capta ducens spolia,
Tuba jubilante.

Papæ! quam magnificum
Hodie dominicum
Germen gloriatur!
Terrae fructus hodie
Super thronos curiæ
Cœli sublimatur.

Intrat tabernaculum
Moyses, et populum
Trahit ad spectaculum

Tantae virtus rei:
Stant suspensis vultibus,
Intendentes nubibus
Jesum subducentibus,
Viri Galilaei.

Dum Elias sublevatur,
Elisaeo duplex datur
Spiritus et pallium:
Alta Christus dum conscendit,
Servis suis mnas appendit
Gratiarum omnium.

Transit Jacob hunc Jordanem,
Luctum gerens non inanem,
Crucis usus baculo;
Redit turmis cum duabus,
Angelis et animabus,
Et thesauri sacculo.

Hic est fortis,
Qui de mortis
Victor portis
Introit cum gloria;
Rex virtutum,
Cujus nutum
Et obtutum
Trina tremit regia.

Vocat Pater Filium
Ad consessus solium,
Donec suppedaneos,
Victos vel spontaneos,
Ponat inimicos.

Sedet in altissimis,
Fruitur potissimis;
Redit ex novissimis,
Judicans ex intimis
Justos et iniquos.

Veni Deus ultionum,
Veni cum clementia:
Dum sistemur ante thronum
Tua in præsentia:

Mane nobis tunc auditam
Fac misericordiam;
In perennem transfer vitam
Ad futuram gloriam.

Amen.
Be glad, all ye people,
and sing your festive songs,
for it is the triumph of Christ!
He returns to heaven, leading thither
the trophies he has won; and as he ascends,
the jubilant sound of the trumpet is heard.

Oh! how grand is the glory
that is this day conferred on the Son of God!
The fruit of our earth
is this day exalted
above all the thrones
of the heavenly court.

Like Moses, he enters the tabernacle,
and people flock to see
the grandeur of the mystery:

the men of Galilee
stand looking up
to the cloud
that received him
out of their sight.

When Elias was taken up from earth,
he gave his twofold
spirit and his mantle to Eliseus:
when Jesus ascended into heaven,
he gave to his servants
the talents of his grace.

Like Jacob, he passed over the Jordan,
enduring sufferings of wondrous avail to us,
and the staff he used was the cross.
He returned to heaven with two troops,
—of angels, and of souls (set free from limbo),
—and laden with treasures.

This is the mighty one,
who, having conquered
the gates of death,
entered heaven with glory.
He is the King of hosts,
at whose bidding
and presence
the triple creation trembles.

The Father calls his Son
to sit with him on his throne,
until he make his enemies
bow down before him,
vanquished by force or love.

He reigns in the highest heavens;
he receives supreme honour;
he is to come again upon our earth
to judge the consciences of all,
saints and sinners.

Oh come, thou avenging God!
come in thy mercy,
when we are to appear
before thee seated on thy throne.

On that day, show unto us thy wonted mercy,
and give us to ascend
to the endless life
of future glory.

Amen.

Again the Mozarabic breviary offers us one of its beautiful prayers for this octave.

Prayer

Domine Jesu Christe, qui sublimius exaltasti thronum tuum in Jerusalem civitatem tuam, quæ est utique Ecclesia, dum eam gloriose conquiris et ab ea triumpha- liter ad Patrem ascendis: dum in assumpto homine Assumptionis tuæ gloriam manifestas: sint ergo in nobis, et vota tibi placita, et opera ipsa accepta; ut ex hoc tecum possideamus regnum in gloria sempiterna. Amen.
O Lord Jesus Christ! who hast set thy throne on high in Jerusalem, thy city, which is thy Church; who didst win her by a glorious victory, and from the same didst triumphantly ascend to thy Father, thus manifesting the glory of thine Assumption in the human Nature thou hadst assumed; grant, we beseech thee, that our homage may be pleasing unto thee, and our works acceptable, whereby we may merit to reign with thee in everlasting glory. Amen.

[1] St. John, i. 5, 11.
[2] St. Matth. xiii.
[3] St. John, xvi. 7.
[4] 1. St. John, v. 4.
[5] De Ascensione Domini. Sermon II.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

O Rex gloriae, Domine virtutum, qui triumphator hodie super omnes cœlos ascendisti, ne derelinquas nos orphanos; sed mitte promissum Patris in nos, Spiritum veritatis, alleluia.
O King of glory, Lord of hosts, who didst this day ascend in triumph above all the heavens! leave us not orphans, but send upon us the Spirit of truth, promised by the Father, alleluia.

We have already seen how the Ascension of our Emmanuel won Him the empire over our understanding: it was the triumph of faith. The same mystery gave Him a second victory: the victory of love, which makes Him reign in our hearts. For eighteen hundred years, in whom have men believed, firmly and universally, except Jesus? In what have men agreed, except the dogmas of faith? What countless errors has this divine torch dispelled! What light has it given to the nations that received it! And in what darkness has it left those which rejected it after having once received it!

In like manner, no one has been loved as our Jesus has been, ever since the day of His Ascension; no one is so loved now or ever will be, as He. But that He might thus win our love He had to leave us, just as He had to do in order to secure our faith. Let us return to our text, that we may get deeper into the beautiful mystery.’It is expedient for you that I go!’[1] Before the Ascension, the disciples were as inconstant in their love as they were in their faith. Jesus could not trust them. But no sooner had He left them, than they became warmly devoted to Him. Instead of complaining of their bereavement, they returned full of joy to Jerusalem. The thought of their master’s triumph made them forget their own loss, and they hastened, as He bade them, to the cenacle, where they were to be endued with power from on high. Watch these men during the subsequent years; examine what their conduct was from that time to the day of their death; count, if you can, their acts of devotedness in the arduous labour of preaching the Gospel; and say, if any other motive than love for their master could have enabled them to do what they did. With what cheerfulness did they drink His chalice![2] With what raptures did they hail His cross, when they saw it being prepared for themselves!

But let us not stop at these first witnesses; they had seen Jesus, and heard Him, and touched Him.[3] Let us turn to those who came after them, and knew Him by faith only; let us see if the love, which burned in the hearts of the apostles, has been kept up by the Christians of the past eighteen centuries. First of all, there is the contest of martyrdom, which has never been altogether interrupted since the Gospel began to be preached. The opening campaign lasted three hundred years. What was it that induced so many millions to suffer, not only patiently but gladly, every torture that cruelty could devise? Was it not their ambition to testify how much they loved their Jesus? Let us not forget how these frightful ordeals were cheerfully gone through, not only by men hardened to suffering, but also by delicate women, by young girls, yea even by little children. Let us call to mind the sublime answers they gave to their persecutors, whereby they evinced their generous ardour to repay the death of Jesus by their own. The martyrs of our own times, in China, Japan, the Corea, and elsewhere, have repeated, without knowing it, the very same words to their judges and executioners as were addressed to the proconsuls of the third and fourth centuries by the martyrs of those days.

Yes, our divine King who has ascended into heaven, is loved as no other ever was or could be. Think of those millions of generous souls, who, that they might be exclusively His, have despised all earthly affections, and would know no other love than His. Every age,—even our own, in spite of all its miseries,—has produced souls of this stamp, and God alone knows how many.

Our Emmanuel has been, and to the end of time will ever be, loved on this earth. Have we not reason to say so, when we consider how many there have always been, even among the wealthiest ones of the world, who, in order that they might bear a resemblance to the Babe of Bethlehem, have given up everything they possessed? What an irresistible proof of the same truth we have in the countless sacrifices of self-love and pride, made with a view to imitate the obedience of the God-Man on earth! And what else but an ardent love of Jesus could have prompted those heroic acts of mortification and penance, whereby the sufferings of His Passion have been emulated, and, as the apostle says, filled up?[4]

But grand as all this is, it was not enough to satisfy man’s devoted love of His absent Lord. Jesus had said: ‘Whatsoever you do to the least of your brethren, you do it to Me.’[5] Love is ever quick at catching the meaning of our Redeemer’s words. It took advantage of these, and saw in them another means for reaching Jesus,—reaching Him through the poor. And as the worst of poverties is the ignorance of divine truths, because it would make a man poor and miserable for eternity, therefore have there risen up in every age zealous apostles, who, bidding farewell to home and fatherland, have carried the light of the Gospel to them that sat in darkness and in the shadow of death. They heeded not the fatigues or the perils of such a mission: what cared they for all these things, if they could but make Jesus known and honoured and loved by one poor savage or Hindoo?

But what of those other poor ones, the sick, in whom Jesus suffers? Fear not: He is too much loved to be forgotten there. Once let the Church be free enough to develop her plans of charity, and there will be an institute of relief for every class of sufferers. The poor, the sick, all will be cared for and comforted. There will be vocations to charity, to meet every want; and women, too, urged by the love of their divine Lord, will deem it an honour to be the nurses and attendants of a suffering or dying Lazarus. The world itself is in admiration at their heroism; and though it knows not the divine principle which originates these charitable institutions, yet is it obliged to acknowledge the extraordinary good they effect.

But man’s observation can only reach the exterior; the interior is the far grander reality, and it is beyond his notice. What we have said so far is, therefore, but a very feeble description of the ardour wherewith our Lord Jesus Christ has been, and still is, loved on this earth. Let us picture to ourselves the millions of Christians who have lived since the first foundation of the Church. Many, it is true, have had the misfortune to be unfaithful to the object of their existence; but what an immense number have loved Jesus with all their heart and soul and strength!

Some have never flagged in their love; others have needed a conversion from vice or tepidity, returned to Him, and slept in the kiss of peace. Count, if you can, the virtuous actions, the heroic sacrifices, of those countless devoted servants of His, who are to be arrayed before Him in the valley of Josaphat. His memory alone can hold and tell the stupendous total of what has been done. This well-nigh infinite aggregate of holy deeds and thoughts, from the seraphic ardour of the greatest saint down to the cup of cold water given in the name of the Redeemer, what is it all but the ceaseless hymn of our earth to its beloved absent One, its never-forgotten Jesus? Who is the man, how dear soever his memory may be, for whom we would be devoted, or sacrifice our interests, or lay down our lives, especially if he had been ten or twenty ages gone from us? Who is that great Dead, the sound of whose name can make the hearts of men vibrate with love, in every country, and in every generation? It is Jesus, who died, who rose again, who ascended into heaven.

But we humbly confess, O Jesus, that it was necessary for us that Thou shouldst go from us, in order that our faith might soar up to Thee in heaven, and that our hearts, being thus enlightened, might burn with Thy love. Enjoy thine Ascension, O Thou King of angels and of men! We, in our exile, will feast on the fruits of the great mystery, waiting for it to be fulfilled in ourselves. Enlighten those poor blind infidels, whose pride will not permit them to recognize Thee, notwithstanding these most evident proofs. They continue in their errors concerning Thee, though they have such superabundant testimony of Thy Divinity in the faith and love Thou hast received in every age. The homage offered Thee by the universe, represented, as it has ever been, by the chief nations of the earth and by the most virtuous and learned men of each generation, is as nought in the eyes of these unbelievers. Who are they, to be compared with such a cloud of faithful witnesses? Have mercy on them, O Lord! save them from their pride; then will they unite with us in saying:’It was indeed expedient for this world to lose Thy visible presence, O Jesus! for never were Thy greatness, Thy power, and Thy Divinity, so recognized and loved, as when Thou didst depart from us. Glory, then, be to the mystery of Thine Ascension, whereby, as the psalmist prophesied, Thou receivedst gifts, that Thou mightest bestow them upon men!’[6]

We will take a hymn to-day from the Greek Church: it is the one she sings in honour of our Redeemer’s triumph, at her evening Office of Ascension day.

Hymn
(In Assumptione Dominiad magnum Vespertinum.)

Assumptus est in cœlos Dominus, ut mundo mitteret Paraclitum. Cœli præparaverunt thronum ejus, et nubes ascensum ejus. Mirantur angeli, supra seipsos hominem videntes. Pater suscipit quem habet in sinu coaeternum. Spiritus sanctus omnibus angelis suis imperat: Attollite portas, principes, vestras. Omnes gentes plaudite manibus, quia ascendit Christus ubi erat prius.

Domine, Assumptione tua obstupuerunt Cherubim, conspicientia te Deum in nubibus ascendentem, super ipsa sedentem; et glorificamus te, quoniam benigna est misericordia tua: Gloria tibi.

In montibus sanctis tuas videntes exaltationes, Christe, splendor gloriae Patris, fulgentem vultus tui speciem iterum atque iterum celebramus; tuas adoramus passiones, resurrectionem honoramus, inclytam glorificantes Assumptionem: miserere nobis.

Domine, quando te in nubibus elevatum viderunt apostoli, cum gemitibus la- crymarum tristitia repleti, Christe vitæ dator, lamentantes dicebant: Domine, utpote misericors, ne derelinquas nos orphanos, quos propter clementiam dilexisti servos tuos; sed mitte, sicut promisisti nobis, sanctissimum Spiritum tuum, illuminantem animas nostras.

Domine, dispensationis impleto mysterio, tuos assumens discipulos, in montem Olivarum tecum ducebas; et ecce firmamentum cœli intrasti. Qui propter me egenus sicut ego factus es, et illuc ascendisti unde non es separatus, sanctissimum tuum mitte Spiritum, illuminantem animas nostras.
A sinu paterno non separatus, dulcissime Jesu, et cum iis qui sunt in terra sicut homo conversatus, hodie a monte Olivarum assumptus es in gloria, et lapsam naturam nostram pro misericordia elevans, cum Patre sedere fecisti. Unde cœlestia incorporeorum agmina, prodigium stupentia, admiratione stabant attonita; et tremore comprehensa tuum erga homines amorem magnificabant. Cum quibus et nos in terra ex- istentes, tuam ad nos descensionem et a nobis Assumptionem glorificantes, rogamus dicentes: Qui discipulos et genitricem tuam Deiparam infinito gaudio in tua Assumptione replevisti, nos quoque electorum tuorum lætitia dignare, precibus eorum, propter magnam misericordiam tuam.
The Lord ascended into heaven, that he might send the Paraclete into this world. The heavens prepared his throne, and the clouds his Ascension. The angels are lost in wonder at seeing man exalted above them. The Father receives him who is in his own bosom, his co-eternal Son. The Holy Ghost speaks this bidding to all his angels: ‘Lift up your gates, O ye princes!’ Clap your hands, all ye people, for Christ hath ascended to the heaven where he has ever been.

The Cherubim were in amazement at thine Assumption, O Lord; they beheld thee ascending upon the clouds, thee their God, who sittest upon them. We glorify thee, for compassionate is thy mercy: Glory be to thee!

Seeing thy risings upon the holy mountains, O Christ, thou brightness of the Father’s glory! we tire not in praise of the brilliant beauty of thy Face. We adore thy Passion, we honour thy Resurrection, we glorify thy noble Assumption: have mercy on us!

When the apostles saw thee, O Lord, raised up to the clouds, they sighed, and wept, and were sad. Thus to thee, O Christ, thou giver of life, did they speak their sorrow: ‘Thou art merciful, O Lord! then leave not orphans us thy servants, whom, in thy goodness, thou hast loved; but send upon us, as thou hast promised, thy most holy Spirit, who will enlighten our souls.’

Having, O Lord, fulfilled the mystery of the dispensation, thou didst lead thy disciples to Mount Olivet; when, lo! thou ascendest into the firmament of heaven. O thou, that for my sake, wast made poor as I, and ascendest to the realm which thou hadst never left, send thy most holy Spirit to enlighten our souls!

Living as Man with them that were on earth, thou, sweetest Jesus! wast not separated from thy Father’s bosom. On this day, thou wast taken up in glory from Mount Olivet; and mercifully raising up our fallen nature thou placedst it on thy Father’s throne. The heavenly host of angels stood in astonished admiration at the sight of the prodigy; and, seized with awe, they celebrated in songs of praise thy love for man. Together with them, we also, who dwell on earth, do glorify thy coming down unto us and thine ascending up from us, and thus do we pray: O thou that, in thine Assumption, filledst the disciples and thy Mother with infinite joy; vouchsafe, through their prayers, and thine own great mercy, to give us a share in the joy of thine elect.

As a close to this glorious octave, we offer the eighth and last of the beautiful prayers given by the Mozarabic breviary in honour of our Lord’s Ascension.

Prayer

Christe Jesu, terribilis Deus noster, et rex noster, cujus in nativitate cum pastoribus angeli gloriam detulerunt; cui devicto mortis auctore, omnes gentes manibus cordibusque plauserunt; quem trophæa victricia reportantem ad æthera, apostolorum est fides prosecuta: fac nos redemptionis nostræ et Ascensionis tuae mysteria fidei jubilatione cantare; et cum principibus populi Deo Abraham fideli famulatu placere. Amen.
Christ Jesus! our God of dread majesty, and our King! at whose birth the angels and shepherds gave glory; at whose victory over the author of death all nations clapped their hands and were filled with joy; at whose ascending, with thy trophies, into heaven, the apostles were perfected in their faith: grant that we, also, with fervent faith, may sing our canticles of praise in honour of the mysteries of our Redemption and of thine Ascension; and that, with the princes of thy people, we may, by our faithful service, be well-pleasing to the God of Abraham. Amen.

[1] St. John, xvi. 7.
[2] St. Matth. xx. 23.
[3] 1 St. John, i. 1.
[4] Coloss. i. 24.
[5] St. Matth. xxv. 40.
[6] Ps. lxvii. 19.

 

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

O Rex gloriæ, Domine virtutum, qui triumphator hodie super omnes cœlos ascendisti, ne derelinquas nos orphanos; sed mitte promissum Patris in nos, Spiritum veritatis, alleluia.
O King of glory, Lord of hosts, who didst this day ascend in triumph above all the heavens! leave us not orphans, but send upon us the Spirit of truth, promised by the Father, alleluia.

The octave is over; the mystery of the glorious Ascension is completed; and our Jesus is never again to be seen upon this earth, until He comes to judge the living and the dead. We are to see Him only by faith; we are to approach Him only by love. Such is our probation; and if we go well through it, we shall, at last, be permitted to enter within the veil, as a reward for our faith and love.

Let us not complain of our lot; rather let us rejoice in that hope, which, as the apostle says, confoundeth not.[1] And how can we be otherwise than hopeful, when we remember that Jesus has promised to abide with us even to the consummation of the world?[2] He will not appear visibly; but He will be always really with us. How could He abandon His bride the Church? And are not we the children of this His beloved bride?

But this is not all: Jesus does something more for us. One of His last words was this, which shows us how dearly He loved us: ‘I will not leave you orphans.’[3] When He used those other words, upon which we have been meditating during the last few days, ‘It is expedient for you that I go’, He added: ‘For if I go not, the Paraclete will not come to you.’[4] This Paraclete, this comforter, is the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of the Father and of the Son; He is to descend upon us a few short hours hence; He will abide with us, making us feel His presence by His works, until Jesus shall again come from heaven that He may take His elect from a world which is to be condemned to eternal torments for its crimes. But the Holy Ghost is not to come until He be sent; and as the sacred text implies, He is not to be sent, until ‘Jesus shall have been glorified.’[5] He is coming that He may continue the great work, which was to be begun by the Son of God, and carried on by Him as far as the eternal decrees had ordained.[6]

Jesus laboured in this work, and then entered into His rest, taking with Him our human nature, which, by assuming it, He had exalted to the divine. The Holy Ghost is not to assume our humanity; but He is coming to console us during Jesus’ absence; He is coming to complete the work of our sanctification. It was He that produced those prodigies which we have been admiring: the faith and love of man in and for Jesus. Yes, it is the Holy Ghost who produces faith in the soul; it is the Holy Ghost who ‘pours the charity of God into our hearts.’[7]

So, then, we are about to witness fresh miracles of God’s love for man! A few hours hence, the reign of the Holy Ghost will have begun on earth. There is but the interim of this one short day, for to-morrow evening the solemnity of Pentecost will be upon us. Let us then linger in our admiration of our Emmanuel. The holy liturgy has daily gladdened us with His presence, beginning with those happy weeks of Advent, when we were awaiting the day on which the Virgin Mother was to give us the ever blessed Fruit. And now He is gone! O sweet memories of the intimacy we enjoyed with our Jesus, when we were permitted to follow Him day by day, we have you treasured within us! Yea, the holy Spirit Himself is coming to impress you still deeper on our hearts; for Jesus told us that, when the Paraclete should come to us, He would help us to remember all that we have heard, and seen, and felt in the company of the God who deigned to live our life that so He might teach us to live His for all eternity.[8]

Neither let us forget how, when quitting this His earthly home,—where He was conceived in Mary’s womb, where He was born, where He spent the three and thirty years of His mortal life, where He died, where He rose from the grave, and from which He ascended to the right hand of His Father—He left upon it an outward mark of His love. He left the impress of His sacred feet upon Mount Olivet, as though He felt separating Himself from the earth to which so many years and mysteries had endeared Him. St. Augustine, St. Paulinus of Nola, Saint Optatus, Sulpicius Severus, and the testimony of subsequent ages, assure us of the prodigy.

These venerable authorities tell us that when the Roman army, under Titus, was encamped on Mount Olivet while besieging Jerusalem, divine Providence protected these holy marks, the farewell memorial left by our Lord to His blessed Mother, to His disciples, and to us: it is here that He stood when last seen on earth, it is here that we shall again see Him when He comes to judge mankind. Neither the rude tramp of the soldiers, nor the ponderous chariots, nor the horses’ hoofs, were permitted to efface or injure the sacred footprints. Yes, it was on this very mount, forty years after the Ascension, that the Roman banner was first unfurled, when the time of God’s vengeance came upon the city of deicide. Let us call to mind, firstly, how the angels announced that the same Jesus, who had just ascended, would again come to judge us; and secondly, how our Lord Himself had compared the two awful events, the destruction of Jerusalem, and the end of the world. These sacred marks of Jesus’ feet are, therefore, the memorial of His affectionate farewell, and the prophecy of His return as our terrible Judge. At the foot of the hill lies the valley of Josaphat, the valley of the judgement; and the prophet Zacharias has said: ‘His feet shall stand, in that day, upon the mount of Olives, which is over against Jerusalem, towards the east.’[9] Let us humbly give admission to the feeling of fear, wherewith our Lord thus inspires us, that we may be more solidly grounded in His love; and let us affectionately venerate the spot on which our Emmanuel left the impress of His feet. The holy empress, St. Helen, was entrusted with the sublime mission of finding and honouring the objects and places that our Redeemer had sanctified by His visible presence. Mount Olivet was sure to elicit her devoted zeal. She ordered a magnificent church of circular form to be built upon it; but when the builders came to pave the church with rich marble, they were prevented, by a miraculous power, from covering the spot on which were imprinted the holy footmarks. The marble broke into a thousand pieces, which struck them on the face; and after several attempts, they resolved to leave that part of the rock uncovered.

This fact is attested by many holy and creditable authors, several of whom lived in the fourth century, when it occurred. But our Lord would do more than keep open to our view these His last footprints, which seem to be ever saying to us: ‘Your Jesus is but now gone, and will soon return.’ He would, moreover, have them teach us that we are to follow Him to heaven. When the time came for roofing the church, the men found that they had not power to do it; the stones fell as often as they attempted to put them up, and the building was left roofless, as though it had to be our reminder that the way opened by Jesus on the summit of Mount Olivet is ever open for us, and that we must be ever aspiring to rejoin our divine master in heaven.

In his first sermon for the feast of the Ascension, St. Bernardine of Siena relates an edifying story, which is in keeping with the reflections we have been making. He tells us that a pious nobleman, desirous of visiting the places that had witnessed the mysteries of our Redemption, passed the seas. Having reached Palestine, he would begin his pilgrimage by visiting Nazareth, and there, on the very spot where the Word was made Flesh, he gave thanks to the infinite love that had drawn our God from heaven to earth, in order that He might save us from perdition. The next visit was to Bethlehem, where our pilgrim venerated the place of our Saviour’s birth. As he knelt on the spot where Mary adored her new-born Babe, the tears rolled down his cheeks, and, as St. Francis of Sales says (for he also has related this affecting story), ‘he kissed the dust whereon the divine Infant was first laid.’[10]

Our devout pilgrim, who bravely travelled the country in every direction, went from Bethlehem to the banks of the Jordan; he stopped near Bothabara, at a little place called Bethany, where St. John baptized Christ. The better to honour the mystery, he went down into the bed of the river, and entered with much devotion into the water, thinking within himself how that stream had been sanctified by its contact with Jesus’ sacred Body. Thence he passed to the desert, for he would follow, as nearly as might be, the footsteps of the Son of God; he contemplated the scene of our Master’s fasting, temptation, and victory. He next went on towards Thabor; he ascended to the top, that he might honour the mystery of the Transfiguration, whereby our Saviour gave to three of His disciples a glimpse of His infinite glory.

At length, the good pilgrim entered Jerusalem. He visited the cenacle; and we can imagine the tender devotion wherewith he meditated on all the great mysteries that had been celebrated there, such as Jesus’ washing His disciples’ feet, and the institution of the Eucharist. Being resolved to follow his Saviour in each station, he passed the brook Cedron, and came to the garden of Gethsemani, where his heart well-nigh broke at the thought of the bloody sweat endured by the divine Victim of our sins. The remembrance of Jesus’ being manacled, fettered, and dragged to Jerusalem, next filled his mind. ‘He at once starts off,’ says the holy bishop of Geneva, whom we must allow to tell the rest of the story: ‘treading in the footsteps of his beloved Jesus; he sees Him dragged to and fro, to Annas, to Caiphas, to Pilate, to Herod: buffetted, scoffed at, spit upon, crowned with thorns, made a show of to the mob, sentenced to death, laden with a cross, and meeting, as He carries it, with His heart-broken Mother and the weeping daughters of Jerusalem.

The good pilgrim mounts to the top of Calvary, where he sees in spirit the cross lying on the ground, and our Saviour stretched upon it, while the executioners cruelly nail Him to it by His hands and feet. He sees them raise the cross and the Crucified in the air, and the Blood gushing from the wounds of the sacred Body. He looks at the poor Mother, who is pierced through with the sword of sorrow; he raises up his eyes to the Crucified, and listens with most loving attention to His seven words; and, at last, sees Him dying, and dead, and His side opened with a spear, so that the sacred Heart is made visible. He watches how He is taken down from the cross, and carried to the tomb; and as he treads along the path all stained with his Redeemer’s Blood, he sheds floods of tears. He enters the sepulchre, and buries his heart side by side with his Jesus’ Corpse.

After this, he rises again together with Him; he visits Emmaus, and thinks on all that happened between Jesus and the two disciples. Finally, he returns to Mount Olivet, the scene of the Ascension; and seeing there the last footprints of his dear Lord, he falls down and covers them with untiring kisses. Then, like an archer stretching his bowstring to give his arrow speed, he concentrates into one intense act the whole power of his love, and stands with his eyes and hands lifted up towards heaven: “Jesus!” he says, “O my sweet Jesus! where else am I now to go on earth seeking thee? Ah Jesus! my dearest Jesus, let this heart of mine follow thee yonder!” Saying this, his heart kept darting upwards to heaven, for the brave archer had taken too sure an aim, to miss his divine object.’[11]

St. Bernadine of Siena tells us, that the companions and attendants of the noble pilgrim, seeing that he was sinking under the vehemence of his desire, hastened to call a physician, that they might bring him to himself again. But it was too late: the soul had fled to her God, leaving us an example of the love that the mere contemplation of the divine mysteries can produce in man’s heart. And have not we been following these same mysteries, under the guidance of the holy liturgy? God grant that we may now keep within us the Jesus whom we have had so truly given to us! And may the holy Spirit, by His coming visit, maintain and intensify in our souls the resemblance to our divine King which we have thus received!

In order the more worthily to celebrate the great mystery which closed yesterday, and the equally glorious one which begins to-morrow, we place between the two the sublime canticle, wherein the royal psalmist prophesies both the Ascension and the Christian Pentecost. The sixty-seventh Psalm (composed for the reception of the Ark of the Covenant on Mount Sion) is, as St. Paul himself has interpreted it,[12] a prophecy of Jesus’ triumphant Ascension into heaven. It begins by celebrating the victory gained by Christ over His enemies by His Resurrection; it proceeds to speak of the favours bestowed upon the Christian people; it shows us the combats and triumphs of the Church; in a word, it puts before us the commencement of the work by our Emmanuel, and its consummation by the Holy Ghost. With a view to facilitating the understanding of this mysterious psalm, we give a commentary rather than a translation; and in doing so, we offer to our readers the interpretation given by the early fathers.

Psalm 67

Exsurgat Deus, et dissipentur inimici ejus: et fugiant, qui oderunt eum, a facie ejus.

Sicut deficit fumus, deficiant: sicut fluit cera a facie ignis, sic pereant peccatores a facie Dei.

Et justi epulentur, et exsultent in conspectu Dei: et delectentur in laetitia.

Cantate Deo, psalmum dicite nomini ejus: iter facite ei qui ascendit super occasum: Dominus nomen illi.

Exsultate in conspectu ejus, turbabuntur a facie ejus, patris orphanorum et judicis viduarum.

Deus in loco sancto suo: Deus qui inhabitare facit unius moris in domo.

Qui educit vinctos in fortitudine, similiter eos, qui exasperant, qui habitant in sepulchris.

Deus, quum egredereris in conspectu populi tui, quum pertransires in deserto:

Terra mota est: etenim cœli distillaverunt a facie Dei Sinai, a facie Dei Israel.

Pluviam voluntariam segregabis, Deus, hæred itati tuæ: et infirmata est, tu vero perfecisti eam.

Animalia tua habitabunt in ea; parasti in dulcedine tua pauperi, Deus.

Dominus dabit verbum evangelizantibus, virtute multa.

Rex virtutum dilecti dilecti: et speciei domus dividere spolia.

Si dormiatis inter medios cleros, pennæ columbæ deargentatæ, et posteriora dorsi ejus in pallore auri.

Dum discernit cœlestis reges super eam, nive dealbabuntur in Selmon: mons Dei, mons pinguis.

Mons coagulatus, mons pinguis: ut quid suspicamini montes coagulatos?

Mons, in quo beneplacitum est Deo habitare in eo: etenim Dominus habitabit in finem.

Currus Dei decem millibus multiplex, millia lætantium: Dominus in eis in Sina in sancto.

Ascendisti in altum, cepisti captivitatem: accepisti dona in hominibus:
Etenim non credentes, inhabitare Dominum Deum.

Benedictus Dominus die quotidie: prosperum iter faciet nobis Deus salutarium nostrorum.

Deus noster, Deus salvos faciendi: et Domini Domini exitus mortis.

Verumtamen Deus confringet capita inimicorum suorum: verticem capilli perambulantium in delictis suis.

Dixit Dominus: Ex Basan convertam, convertam in profundum maris:
Ut intingatur pes tuus in sanguine: lingua canum tuorum ex inimicis, ab ipso.

Viderunt ingressus tuos, Deus: ingressus Dei mei: Regis mei qui est in sancto.

Prævenerunt principes conjuncti psallentibus, in medio juvencularum tympanistriarum.

In ecclesiis benedicite Deo Domino, de fontibus Israel.

Ibi Benjamin adolescentulus, in mentis excessu.

Principes Juda, duces eorum, principes Zabulon, principes Nephthali.

Manda Deus virtuti tuae: confirma hoc Deus, quod operatus es in nobis.

A templo tuo in Jerusalem, tibi offerent reges munera.

Increpa feras arundinis: congregatio taurorum in vaccis populorum: ut excludant eos, qui probati sunt argento.

Dissipa gentes, quæ bella volunt: venient legati ex Ægypto: Æthiopia præveniet manus ejus Deo.

Regna terræ cantate Deo: psallite Domino.

Psallite Deo qui ascendit super cœlum cœli, ad orientem.

Ecce dabit voci suae vocem virtutis: date gloriam Deo super Israel, magnificentia ejus, et virtus ejus in nubibus.

Mirabilis Deus in sanctis suis: Deus Israel ipse dabit virtutem et fortitudinem plebi suae: benedictus Deus.
Let God, the Man-God arise, and let his enemies be scattered: and let them that hate him flee from before his face.

As smoke vanisheth, so let them vanish away: as wax melteth before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God.

And let the just feast, and rejoice before God, and be delighted with gladness.

O ye that have been redeemed, sing to God, sing a psalm to his name! make a way for him who ascendeth upon the west, as on a throne. He is the Son of Man, and yet Jehovah is his name.

Rejoice ye before him: but his enemies, the wicked spirits, shall be troubled at his presence, for he is come that he may be the father of orphans, the judge and defender of the widow, the Redeemer of mankind, which sin had made a slave of satan.

He is God in his holy sanctuary, and he would give them to dwell in his own house, who shall have lived in the unity of one faith and charity.

He delivers, by the strength of his arm, them that were strongly fettered; but them that provoke him by their resistance, he casts into the abyss.

O God! O Christ! when thou didst go forth on this earth, leading thy chosen people: when thou didst pass through the parched desert of this world,

The earth was moved, and the heavens dropped down a refreshing dew, at the bidding of the God of Sinai, the God of Israel, who had sent thee.

Thou hast reserved for thine inheritance, thy Church, a rain of blessings.

Thine inheritance was lost: mankind was a prey to every misery when thou camest upon the earth: but thou didst restore it and make it perfect.

In it shall henceforth dwell the flock, of which thou art the shepherd. In thy sweetness, O God, thou providest a nourishment that would strengthen its weakness.

That he may invite his elect to partake of these blessings, the Holy Ghost, who is also God, is about to give a tongue and voice to them that are to evangelize the world; they shall speak with a power that cannot be resisted.

Kings of mighty armies shall be subdued by him who is the dear and beloved one of the Father: and she that is the beauty of the house shall divide their spoils.

During the contest, ye, O children of the Church, shall sleep in safety in the enclosure that protects you; ye shall be as the silvery-feathered dove, whose back reflects the richness of gold.

When he, whose throne is in heaven, shall execute judgement upon these kings, they that are under his protection shall be fair as the snow which covers the top of mount Selmon. There is a mountain, the mountain of God.

A fertile, rich, & fat mountain; it is his Church. Where else would you seek for mountains, whose richness can be compared to hers?

She is the mountain on which God is well pleased to dwell; there the Lord shall dwell unto the end.

The chariot of the Son of God, as he ascends into heaven, is grander than ten thousand chariots of war; thousands of angels stand in joy around it. The Lord is in their midst; he takes up his abode in his sanctuary, as heretofore he did on Sina.

O Jesus! thou hast ascended on high; thou hast led with thee them that were captives in limbo. Thou, as Man, receivedst ineffable gifts, and thou hast lavished them upon us.

And even they that hitherto believed not, now confess that God dwells amongst us.

Blessed be the Lord day by day! God, the author of our salvation, will make our journey prosperous.

Yea, our God is the God of salvation. To the Lord, to the Lord doth it belong to deliver us from death.

But this God shall break the heads of his enemies, the proud heads of them that walk boastingly in the path of their crimes.

The Lord has said: ‘I will snatch them from Basan, I will cast them into the depth of the sea;

And thou, O my chosen people, shalt dip thy foot in their blood; and the tongue of thy dogs shall be red with the same.’

They have seen thine entrance into heaven, thy triumphant entrance, O my God, my king, who hast taken up thine eternal abode in thy sanctuary!

The princes of the angelic host went before; and with them went those that sing; and around them were young maidens playing on timbrels. Such is the retinue worthy of Christ: strength, melody, and purity.

Ye, then, that are on earth, bless the Lord in your assemblies; ye that come from the source of the true Israel, ye that are the children of the Church!

Let there be seen in the choir of the faithful, the young Benjamin, filled with holy enthusiasm;

Let there be seen the princes of Juda, with their leaders; & the princes of Zabulon, and the princes of Nephthali.

O Christ, our God, command in thy strength! send the Spirit of power! confirm, O God, by him, what thou hast wrought in us.

From thy temple in Jerusalem,—the figure of thy Church,—kings shall offer presents to thee.

Repress the wild beasts that hide in the reeds, the heresies which, like wild bulls, disturb the peace of thy flock. They have conspired to drive from thine inheritance them whose faith has been tried as silver.

Scatter thou the nations that delight in war. Lo! Egypt shall send ambassadors, praying that she may be admitted to the knowledge of the true God; yea, even Ethiopia shall stretch forth her hands towards him; she shall come to him sooner than other people.

Sing to God, ye kingdoms of the earth; sing ye to the Lord.

Sing ye to God, who ascendeth above the heaven of heavens; he ascendeth from Mount Olivet, which is to the east.

Lo! the hour is come, and he is about to give new power to his voice by the preaching of the apostles. Give ye glory to God for all that he hath done for the new Israel: his magnificence and his power are made manifest in the messengers he hath sent, who are swift in their passage, as clouds.

God is wonderful in his holy sanctuary: it is he, the God of Israel, that will give to his new people the power and strength that will make them last to the end of the world. Blessed be God!

[1] Rom. v. 5.
[2] St. Matth. xxviii. 20.
[3] St. John, xiv. 18.
[4] Ibid. xvi. 7.
[5] St. John, vii. 39.
[6] Ibid. xvii. 4.
[7] Rom. v. 5.
[8] St. John, xiv. 26.
[9] Zach. xiv. 4.
[10] Treatise on the Love of God. Book vii. chap. xii.
[11] Treatise on the Love of God. Book vii. chap. xii.
[12] Eph. iv. 8.

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

O Rex gloriæ, Domine virtutum, qui triumphator hodie super omnes cœlos ascendisti, ne derelinquas nos orphanos; sed mitte promissum Patris in nos Spiritum veritatis, alleluia.
O King of glory, Lord of hosts, who didst this day ascend in triumph above all the heavens! leave us not orphans, but send upon us the Spirit of truth, promised by the Father, alleluia.

The dazzling splendour of to-morrow’s solemnity- forecasts its beauty on this day of its vigil. The faithful are preparing themselves by fasting to celebrate the glorious mystery. But the Mass of the neophytes, which formerly was said during the night, is now anticipated, as on Easter Eve; so that by to-day’s noon, we shall have already begun the praises of the Holy Ghost. The Office of Vespers, in the afternoon, will solemnly open the grand festival. The reign of the holy Spirit is, therefore, proclaimed by the liturgy of this very day. Let us unite ourselves in spirit with the holy ones, who are awaiting the fulfilment of Jesus’ promise.

Whilst following the mysteries of the past seasons of the liturgical year, we have been frequently told of the action of the Third Person of the blessed Trinity. The lessons read to us, from both the old and the new Testament, have more than once excited our respectful attention towards this divine Spirit, who seemed to be shrouded in mystery, the time for Him to be made manifest not having yet arrived. The workings of God in His creatures do not come all at once; there is a succession in their coining, but come they certainly will. The sacred historian describes how the heavenly Father, acting through His Word, employed six days in arranging, into its several parts, this world which He had created; but he also tells us, though under the veil of a mysterious expression, that the Spirit moved over the waters, which the Son of God was about to divide from the earth.

If, then, the Holy Ghost’s visible reign on our earth was deferred until such time as the Man-God should be enthroned on the Father’s right hand, we must not conclude that this divine Spirit has been inactive. What are the sacred Scriptures, from which the liturgy has selected so many sublime passages for our instruction, but the silent production of Him, who, as the venerable Symbol has it, ‘spoke by the prophets?’[1] He gave us the Word, the Wisdom of God, by the Scripture, who gave us, at a later period, this same Word, in the flesh of human nature.

He has never been a moment of all the past ages without working. He prepared the world for the reign of the Incarnate Word; He did so by bringing together the various races of once separate nations, and by keeping up that universal expectation of a Redeemer, which was held alike by the most barbarous and by the most highly civilized. The earth had not as yet heard the name of the Holy. Ghost, but He moved over the universe of mankind, as He moved over the dead mass of water at the beginning of the world.

Meanwhile, the prophets spoke of Him in several of the prophecies wherein they foretold the coming of the Son of God. The Lord thus spoke by the lips of Joel:’I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh.’[2] He said to us through Ezechiel:’I will pour upon you clean water, and you shall be cleansed from all your filthiness, and I will cleanse you from all your idols. And I will give you a new heart, and put a new spirit within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh; and I will put My Spirit in the midst of you.’[3]

But previously to the manifestation of Himself, the Holy Ghost was to effect that of the divine Word. When infinite power called into existence the body and soul of the future Mother of God, it was He that prepared the dwelling for the sovereign Majesty, by sanctifying Mary from the instant of her conception, and taking possession of her as the temple into which the Son of God was soon to enter. When the ever blessed day of the Annunciation came, the archangel declared unto Mary that the Holy Ghost would come upon her, and that the power of the Most High would overshadow her. No sooner did the Virgin consent to the fulfilment of the eternal decree, than the operation of the divine Spirit produced within her the most ineffable of mysteries: the Word was made Flesh, and dwelt among us!

Upon this flower that sprang from the branch of the tree of Jesse, upon this Humanity divinely produced in Mary, there rested complacently the Spirit of the Father and of the Son: He enriched it with His gifts, He fitted it for its glorious and everlasting destiny.[4] He that had so filled the Mother with the treasures of His grace, that it seemed to border on infinity, gave incomparably more to her Child. And, as ever, the holy Spirit worked these stupendous wonders silently; for the time of His manifestation had not come. The earth is to catch but a glimpse of Him on the day of Jesus’ baptism, when He will rest with outstretched wings on the head of the well-beloved Son of the Father. The holy Baptist John will understand the glorious vision, as he had felt, when yet unborn, the presence of the blessed fruit in Mary’s womb; but as to the bystanders, they saw but a dove, and the dove revealed not his eternal secrets.

The reign of the Son of God, our Emmanuel, is established upon its predetermined foundations. In Him we have a brother, for He has assumed our weak human nature; a teacher, for He is the Wisdom of the Father, and leads us into all truth; a physician, for He heals all our infirmities; a mediator, for by His sacred Humanity He brings all creation to its Creator. In Him we have our Redeemer, and in His Blood our ransom; for sin had broken the link between God and ourselves, and we needed a divine Redeemer. In Him we have a Head, who is not ashamed of His members, however poor they may be; a King whom we have seen crowned with an everlasting diadem; a Lord, whom the Lord hath made to sit on His right hand.[5]

But if He rules over this earth for all ages, it is from His throne in heaven that He is to rule, until the angel’s voice is heard proclaiming that ‘time is no more’;[6] and then He will return to ‘crush the heads’[7] of sinners. Meanwhile, long ages are to flow onwards in their course, and these ages are to be the reign of the Holy Ghost. But as we learn from the evangelist, the Spirit was not given until such time as Jesus was glorified.[8] So that our beautiful mystery of the Ascension stands between the two divine reigns on earth: the visible reign of the Son of God, and the visible reign of the Holy Ghost. Nor is it only the prophets who announce the succession of the second to the first; it is our Emmanuel Himself, who, during the days of His mortal life, heralded the approaching reign of the divine Spirit.

We have not forgotten His words: ‘It is expedient for you that I go; for if I go not, the Paraclete will not come to you.’[9] Oh! how much the world must have needed this divine guest, of whom the very Son of God made Himself the precursor! And that we might understand how great is the majesty of this new master who is to reign over us, Jesus thus speaks of the awful chastisements which are to befall them that offend Him: ‘Whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but he that shall speak against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world nor in the world to come.’[10] This divine Spirit is not, however, to assume our human nature, as did the Son; neither is He to redeem the world, as did the Son; but He is to come among men with a love so immeasurable, that woe to them who despise it! It is to Him that Jesus intends to confide the Church, His bride, during the long term of her widowhood; to Him will He make over His own work, that He may perpetuate and direct it in all its parts.

We, then, who are to receive a few hours hence the visit of this Spirit of love, who is to renew the face of the earth,[11] must be all attention, as we were at Bethlehem when we were awaiting the birth of our Emmanuel. The Word and the Holy Ghost are coequal in glory and power, and their coming upon the earth proceeds from the one same eternal and merciful decree of the blessed Trinity, who, by this twofold visit, would’make us partakers of the divine nature.’[12] We, who were once nothingness, are destined to become, by the operation of the Word and the Spirit, children of the heavenly Father. And if we would know what preparation we should make for the visit of the Paraclete, lot us return in thought to the cenacle, where we left the disciples assembled, persevering with one mind in prayer, and waiting, as their Master had commanded them, for the power of the Most High to descend upon them, and arm them for their future combat.

The first we look for in this sanctuary of recol- lectedness and peace, is Mary, the Mother of Jesus, the master-piece of the Holy Ghost, the Church of the living God, from whom is to be born on the morrow, and by the action of the same divine Spirit, the Church, militant; for this second Eve represents and contains it within herself. Well, indeed, does this incomparable creature now deserve our honour! Have we not seen her glorious share in all the mysteries of the Man-God? And is she not to be the dearest and worthiest object of the Paraclete’s visit? Hail, then, O Mary full of grace! Thou art our mother, and we rejoice in being thy children. The holy Church expresses this joy of ours, when she thus comments the words of David’s canticle: ‘Our dwelling in thee, O holy Mother of God! is as of them that are all rejoicers!’[13] In vain wouldst thou decline the honours that await thee on the morrow! Mother Immaculate! Temple of the Holy Ghost! there is no escape, and receive thou must a new visit of the Spirit, for a new work is entrusted to thee: the care of the infant Church for several years to come!

The apostolic college is clustered around the holy Mother; it is such a feast to them to look upon her, for they see the likeness of their Jesus in her face! In the very cenacle where they are now assembled, and in Mary’s presence, an event occurs which is of deep importance. As God, when He formed His Israelite people, chose the twelve sons of Jacob that they might be the fathers of that privileged race, so did Jesus choose twelve men, and they, too, were Israelites, that they might be the foundations of the Church, of which He Himself, and Peter together with and in Him, is the chief corner-stone. The terrible fall of Judas has reduced the number to eleven; the mysterious number is broken, and the Holy Ghost is about to descend upon the college of the apostles. Jesus had not thought proper to fill up the vacanoy before His Ascension into heaven: and yet the number must be completed, before the coming of the Power from on high. The Church surely could not be less perfect than the Synagogue. Who, then, will take Christ’s place in designating the new apostle? Such a right, says St. John Chrysostom, could not belong to any but Peter; but he humbly waived his right, and expressed his wish that there should be an election. The choice fell upon Mathias, who immediately took his place among the apostles, and awaited the promised Comforter.

In the cenacle, and in the blessed Mother’s company, there are also the disciples, less honoured, it is true, than the twelve, yet have they been witnesses of the works and mysteries of the Man-God; they, too, are to share in preaching the good tidings. And finally, Magdalene and the other holy women are there, preparing, as the Master had prescribed, for the visit from on high, which is to tell upon them also. Let us honour this fervent assembly of the hundred and twenty disciples. They are our models. The holy Spirit is to descend first upon them, for they are His first-fruits; but He is to come down upon us also, and it is with a view to prepare us for our Pentecost that the Church imposes on us to-day the obligation of fasting.

Formerly, this vigil was kept like that of Easter. The faithful repaired to the church in the evening, that they might assist at the solemn administration of Baptism. During the night, the Sacrament of regeneration was conferred upon such catechumens as sickness or absence from home had prevented from receiving it on Easter night. Those, also, who had then been thought insufficiently tried or instructed, and had, during the interval, satisfied the conditions required by the Church, now formed part of the group of aspirants to the new birth of the sacred font. Instead of the twelve prophecies, which were read on Easter night while the priests were performing over the catechumens the rites preparatory to Baptism, six only were now read; at least, such was the usual custom, and it would lead us to suppose that the number of those baptized at Pentecost was less than at Easter.

The Paschal Candle was again brought forward during this night of grace, in order to impress the newly baptized with respect and love for the Son of God, who became Man that He might be the light of the world.[14] The rites already described and explained for Holy Saturday were repeated on this occasion, and the Sacrifice of the Mass, at which the neophytes assisted, began before the break of day.

In later times, when the charitable custom of conferring Baptism on children immediately after their birth passed into a general law, the Mass of Whitsun-Eve was said early in the morning, as was done in the case of Easter-Eve. The six prophecies, of which we have just spoken, are now read before the celebration of the holy Sacrifice; after which, the baptismal water is solemnly blessed. The Paschal Candle is used at this ceremony, at which the faithful should consider it a duty to assist.

First Vespers are sung in the afternoon. We do not insert them, because Whitsun-Eve can never occur on a Sunday; whereas, for other feasts, for which we have given the first Vespers, the vigil may be a Sunday. Moreover, the first and second Vespers of Whit-Sunday are almost exactly alike.

We will close this day by inserting one of the finest sequences composed by Adam of Saint Victor on the mystery of Pentecost. This great liturgical poet of the western Church has surpassed himself in what he has written on the Holy Ghost; and more than once, during the octave, we will select from his rich store. But the hymn we give to-day is not merely a composition of poetic worth; it is a sublime and fervent prayer to the Paraclete, whom Jesus has promised to send us, and whom we are now expecting. Let us make these sentiments of the devout poet of the twelfth century our own; let us imitate him in his longings for the holy Spirit, who is coming that He may renew the face of the earth, and dwell within us.

Sequence

Qui procedis ab utroque,
Genitore Genitoque,
Pariter Paraclite,
Redde linguas eloquentes,
Fac ferventes in te mentes
Flamma tua divite.

Amor Patris Filiique,
Par amborum, et utrique
Compar et consimilis,
Cuncta reples, cuncta foves,
Astra regis, cœlum moves,
Permanens immobilis.

Lumen charum, lumen clarum,
Internarum tenebrarum
Effugas caliginem;
Per te mundi sunt mundati;
Tu peccatum et peccati
Destruis rubiginem.

Veritatem notam facis,
Et ostendis viam pacis
Et iter justitiæ.
Perversorum corda vitas,
Et bonorum corda ditas
Munere scientiae.

Te docente nil obscurum
Te praesente nil impurum;
Gloriatur mens jucunda;
Per te laeta,
Per te munda
Gaudet conscientia.

Tu commutas elementa;
Per te suam sacramenta
Habent efficaciam:
Tu nocivam vim repellis,
Tu confutas et refellis
Hostium nequitiam.

Quando venis Corda lenis;
Quando subis, atrae nubis
Effugit obscuritas;
Sacer ignis, pectus uris;
Non comburis, sed a curis
Purgas, quando visitas.

Mentes prius imperitas,
Et sopitas et oblitas
Erudis et excitas.
Foves linguas, formas sonum,
Cor ad bonum facit pronum
A te data charitas.

O juvamen oppressorum,
O solamen miserorum,
Pauperum refugium,
Da contemptum terrenorum:
Ad amorem supernorum
Trahe desiderium.

Consolator et fundator,
Habitator et amator
Cordium humilium,
Pelle mala, terge sordes,
Et discordes fac concordes,
Et affer præsidium.

Tu qui quondam visitasti,
Docuisti, confortasti
Timentes discipulos,
Visitare nos digneris;
Nos, si placet, consoleris
Et credentes populos.

Par majestas personarum,
Par potestas est earum,
Et communis deitas:
Tu procedens a duobus
Coæqualis es ambobus:
In nullo disparitas.

Quia tantus es et talis,
Quantus Pater est et qualis;
Servorum humilitas
Deo Patri, Filioque
Redemptori, tibi quoque
Laudes reddat debitas.

Amen.

O Divine Paraclete,
who proceedest equally from the Father
and the Son! with thy glowing fire,
give eloquence to our tongues,
and make our hearts fervent
in their love for thee.

Love of the Father and the Son!
equal and coequal with them in essence!
thou fillest and fosterest all things:
and though in thyself immovable,
thou governest the stars,
and givest motion to the heavens.

Light most dear and bright!
thou puttest to flight
the gloom of our soul’s darkness.
‘Tis thou that purifiest the pure,
and takest away
sin and its rust.

Thou teachest us the truth;
thou showest us the way of peace
and the path of justice.
Thou shunnest the hearts of perverse sinners;
thou enrichest the hearts of the good
with the gift of knowledge.

With thee as teacher, there is no obscurity;
when thou art present, there is no impurity.
The soul that possesses thee,
is cheerful:
and her conscience
is joyful and pure.

Thou changest the elements;
by thee have the Sacraments
their efficacy:
thou drivest away all evil power:
thou bringest to nought
the wickedness of our enemies.

When thou comest to us,
our hearts are soothed;
when thou enterest, dark clouds are put to flight.
O sacred Fire! when thou visitest us,
thou inflamest our souls; not burning them,
but purging them from the dross of care.

Thou givest wisdom and fervour to souls
that once were ignorant and drowsy and heedless.
Thou inspirest the tongue,
thou formest its speech;
and the charity thou givest,
makes the heart prompt to all that is good.

O helper of them that are heavily laden!
O Comforter of the afflicted!
O refuge of the poor!
Give us a contempt for earthly things,
and draw our affections
to the love of what is heavenly.

Consoler and creator,
and guest, and lover
of humble souls!
Drive all evil from us, cleanse our sins,
bring concord where now is discord,
and support us by thy protection.

O thou that heretofore didst visit,
teach, and strengthen
the timid disciples,
deign to visit us;
vouchsafe to console us
and the faithful throughout the world.

Equal is the majesty,
equal the power,
and one the divinity,
of the Three Persons.
Thou proceedest from the Father and the Son,
and art coequal in all things with them.

Being, therefore, infinite
in all perfections as is the Father,
accept from us thy poor servants
the praise that is due to thee,
equally with the Father
and the Son.

Amen.


[1] Qui locutus est per prophetas. (Symbol of Nicœa and Constantinople.)
[2] Joel, ii. 28.
[3] Ezech. xxxvi. 25-27.
[4] Is. ad. 1-3.
[5] Ps. cix. 1.
[6] Apoc. x. 6.
[7] Ps. cix. 6.
[8] St. John, vii. 39.
[9] St. John, xvi. 7.
[10] St. Matth. xii. 32.
[11] Ps. ciii. 30.
[12] 2 St. Peter, i. 4.
[13] The 2nd Nocturn of the Office of the Blessed Virgin; Antiphon to the 86th Psalm.
[14] St. John, viii. 12.

 

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