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Octave of the Ascension

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

Including descriptions of the following:

The sun of the fortieth day has risen in all his splendour. The earth, which shook with gladness at the birth of our Emmanuel,[1] now thrills with a strange emotion. The divine series of the mysteries of the Man-God is about to close. Heaven has caught up the joy of earth. The angelic choirs are preparing to receive their promised King, and their princes stand at the gates, that they may open them when the signal is given of the mighty conqueror’s approach.[2] The holy souls, that were liberated from limbo on the morning of the Resurrection, are hovering round Jerusalem, waiting for the happy moment when heaven’s gate, closed by Adam’s sin, shall be thrown open, and they shall enter in company with their Redeemer:—a few hours more, and then to heaven! Meanwhile, our risen Jesus has to visit His disciples and bid them farewell, for they are to be left for some years longer in this vale of tears.

They are in the cenacle, impatiently awaiting His coming. Suddenly He appears in their midst. Of the Mother’s joy, who would dare to speak? As to the disciples and the holy women, they fall down and affectionately adore the Master, who has come to take His leave of them. He deigns to sit down to table with them; He even condescends to eat with them, not, indeed, to give them proof of His Resurrection, for He knows that they have no further doubts of the mystery; but now that He is about to sit at the right hand of the Father, He would give them this endearing mark of familiarity. Oh admirable repast! in which Mary, for the last time in this world, is seated side by side with her Jesus, and in which the Church, (represented by the disciples and the holy women) is honoured by the visible presidency of her Head and Spouse.

What tongue could describe the respect, the recollected mien, the attention of the guests? With what love must they have riveted their eyes on the dear Master! They long to hear Him speak; His parting words will be so treasured! He does not keep them long in suspense: He speaks, but His language is not what they perhaps expected it to be, all affection. He begins by reminding them of the incredulity wherewith they heard of His Resurrection.[3] He is going to entrust His apostles with the most sublime mission ever given to man; He would, therefore, prepare them for it by humbling them. A few days hence they are to be the lights of the world; the world must believe what they preach, believe it on their word, believe it without having seen, believe what the apostles alone have seen. It is by faith that man approaches his God: they themselves were once without it, and Jesus would have them now express their sorrow for their former incredulity, and thus base their apostolate on humility.

Then, assuming a tone of authority, such as none but a God could take, He says to them: 'Go ye into the whole world, and preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved: but he that believeth not, shall be condemned.’[4] And how shall they accomplish this mission of preaching the Gospel to the whole world? how shall they persuade men to believe their word? By miracles. ‘And these signs,’ continues Jesus, ‘shall follow them that believe: in My name they shall cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they shall drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay their hands upon the sick, and they shall recover.’[5] He would have miracles to be the foundation of His Church, just as He had made them the argument of His own divine mission. The suspension of the laws of nature proves to us that it is God who speaks; we must receive the word, and humbly believe it.

Here, then, we have men unknown to the world and devoid of every human means, and yet commissioned to conquer the earth and make it acknowledge Jesus as its King! The world ignores their very existence. Tiberius, who sits on the imperial throne, trembling at every shadow of conspiracy, little suspects that there is being prepared an expedition which is to conquer the Roman empire. But these warriors must have their armour, and the armour must be of heaven’s own tempering. Jesus tells them that they are to receive it a few days hence. ‘Stay,’' says He, ‘in the city, till ye be endued with power from on high.’[6] But what is this armour? Jesus explains it to them. He reminds them of the Father’s promise, ‘that promise,’ says He, ‘which ye have heard by my mouth; for John, indeed, baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.’[7]

But the hour of separation is come. Jesus rises: His blessed Mother, and the hundred and twenty persons assembled there, prepare to follow Him. The cenacle is situated on Mount Sion, which is one of the two hills within the walls of Jerusalem. The holy group traverses the city, making for the eastern gate, which opens on the valley of Josaphat. It is the last time that Jesus walks through the faithless city. He is invisible to the eyes of the people who denied. Him, but visible to His disciples, and goes before them, as heretofore the pillar of fire led on the Israelites. How beautiful and imposing a sight! Mary, the disciples, and the holy women accompanying Jesus in His heavenward journey, which is to lead Him to the right hand of His eternal Father! It was commemorated in the middle ages by a solemn procession before the Mass of Ascension day. What happy times were those, when Christians took delight in honouring every action of our Redeemer! They could not be satisfied as we are, with a few vague notions, which can produce nothing but an equally vague devotion.

They reflected on the thoughts which Mary must have had during these last moments of her Son’s presence. They used to ask themselves, which of the two sentiments was uppermost in her maternal heart, —sadness, that she was to see her Jesus no more, or joy, that He was now going to enter into the glory He so infinitely deserved. The answer was soon found: had not Jesus said to His disciples: ‘If ye loved Me, ye would indeed be glad, because I go to the Father.’[8] Now, who loved Jesus as Mary did? The Mother’s heart, then, was full of joy at parting with Him. How was she to think of herself, when there was question of the triumph of her Son and her God? Could she that had witnessed the scene of Calvary, do less than desire to see Him glorified, whom she knew to be the sovereign Lord of all things,—Him whom, but a short time ago, she had seen rejected by His people, blasphemed, and dying the most ignominious and cruel of deaths?

The holy group has traversed the valley of Josaphat; it has crossed the brook Cedron, and is moving onwards to Mount Olivet. What recollections would crowd on the mind! This torrent, of which Jesus had drunk on the day of His humiliation, is now the path He takes to triumph and glory. The royal prophet had foretold it.[9] On their left, are the garden and the cave, where He suffered His agony and accepted the bitter chalice of His Passion. After having come as far as what St. Luke calls the distance of the journey allowed to the Jews on a Sabbath-day,[10] they are close to Bethania, that favoured village, where Jesus used to accept hospitality at the hands of Lazarus and his two sisters. This part of Mount Olivet commands a view of Jerusalem. The sight of its temple and palaces makes the disciples proud of their earthly city: they have forgotten the curse uttered against her; they seem to have forgotten, too, that Jesus has just made them citizens and conquerors of the whole world. They begin to dream of the earthly grandeur of Jerusalem, and, turning to their divine Master, they venture to ask Him this question: ‘Lord, wilt Thou, at this time, restore again the kingdom to Israel?’[11]

Jesus answers them with a tone of severity: ‘It is not for you to know the times or moments which the Father hath put in His own power.'[12] These words do not destroy the hope that Jerusalem is to be restored by the Christian Israel; but, as this is not to happen till the world is drawing towards its end, there is nothing that requires our Saviour’s revealing the secret. What ought to be uppermost in the mind of the disciples, is the conversion of the pagan world, the establishment of the Church. Jesus reminds them of the mission He has just given to them: ‘Ye shall receive', says He, ‘the power of the Holy Ghost coming upon you; and ye shall be witnesses unto me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and even to the uttermost part of the earth.'[13]

According to a tradition, which has been handed down from the earliest ages of Christianity, [14] it is midday, the same hour at which He was raised up, when nailed to His cross. Giving His blessed Mother a look of filial affection, and another of fond farewell to the rest of the group that stand around Him, Jesus raises up His hands and blesses them all. While thus blessing them, He is raised up from the ground whereon He stands, and ascends into heaven.[15] Their eyes follow Him, until a cloud comes and receives Him out of their sight.[16]

Yes, Jesus is gone! The earth has lost her Emmanuel!—For four thousand years had He been expected: the patriarchs and prophets had desired His coming with all the fervour of their souls. He came. His love made Him our captive in the chaste womb of the Virgin of Nazareth; it was there He first received our adorations. Nine months after, the blessed Mother offered Him to our joyous love in the stable at Bethlehem. We followed Him into Egypt; we returned with Him; we dwelt with Him at Nazareth. When He began the three years of His public life, we kept close to His steps; we delighted in being near Him, we listened to His preaching and parables, we saw His miracles. The malice of His enemies reached its height; and the time came wherein He was to give us the last and grandest proof of the love that had brought Him from heaven, by dying for us on a cross. We kept near Him as He died, and our souls were purified by the Blood that flowed from His wounds. On the third day, He rose again from His grave, and we stood by exulting in His triumph over death, for that triumph won for us a like resurrection. During the forty days He has deigned to spend with us since His Resurrection, our faith has made us cling to Him: we would fain have kept Him with us for ever,—but the hour is come: He has left us. Yes, our dearest Jesus is gone! Oh happy the souls that He had taken from limbo! They have gone with Him, and, for all eternity, are to enjoy the heaven of His visible presence.

The disciples are still steadfastly looking up towards heaven, when lo! two angels, clad in white robes, appear to them, saying: ‘Ye men of Galilee! why stand ye looking up to heaven? This Jesus, who is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come as ye have seen Him going into heaven!’[17] He has ascended, a Saviour; He is to return, a Judge: between these two events is comprised the whole life of the Church on earth. We are therefore living under the reign of Jesus as our Saviour, for He has said: ‘God sent not His Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved by Him:’[18] and to carry out this merciful design He has just been giving to His disciples the mission to go throughout the whole world, and invite men, while yet there is time, to accept the mystery of salvation.

What a task is this He imposes on the apostles! And now that they are to begin their work, He leaves them! They return from Mount Olivet, and Jesus is not with them! And yet, they are not sad; they have Mary to console them; her unselfish generosity is their model, and well do they learn the lesson.

They love Jesus; they rejoice at the thought of His having entered into His rest. ‘They went back into Jerusalem with great joy.’[19] These few simple words of the Gospel indicate the spirit of this admirable feast of the Ascension: it is a festival which, notwithstanding its soft tinge of sadness, is, more than any other, expressive of joy and triumph. During its octave, we will endeavour to describe its mystery and magnificence: we would only observe for the present, that this solemnity is the completion of the mysteries of our redemption; that it is one of those which were instituted by the apostles;[20] and finally, that it has impressed a character of sacredness on the Thursday of each week, the day already so highly honoured by the institution of the Eucharist.

We have alluded to the procession, whereby our Catholic forefathers used, on this feast, to celebrate the journey of Jesus and His disciples to Mount Olivet. Another custom observed on the Ascension, was the solemn blessing given to bread and to the new fruits: it was commemorative of the farewell repast taken by Jesus in the cenacle. Let us imitate the piety of the ages of faith, when Christians loved to honour the very least of our Saviour’s actions, and, so to speak, make them their own, by thus interweaving the minutest details of His life into their own. What earnest reality of love and adoration was given to our Jesus in those olden times, when His being sovereign Lord and Redeemer was the ruling principle of both individual and social life! Now-a-days, we may follow the principle, as fervently as we please, in the privacy of our own consciences, or, at most, in our own homes; but publicly, and when we are before the world, no! To say nothing of the evil results of this modern limitation of Jesus’ rights as our King, what could be more sacrilegiously unjust to Him who deserves our whole service, everywhere and at all times? The angels said to the apostles: 'This Jesus shall come, as ye have seen Him going into heaven:’ happy we, if, during His absence, we shall have so unreservedly loved and served Him, as to be able to meet Him with confidence when He comes to judge us.

We will not here insert the Office of first Vespers, inasmuch as this festival is fixed for the Thursday; so that its vigil can never fall on a Sunday, and the faithful, consequently, have not the habit of assisting at them. Moreover, with the exception of the versicle and the Magnificat antiphon, the first and second Vespers are exactly alike.

 

MASS

 

The Roman missal gives St. Peter’s as the Station for to-day. It was a happy thought to choose this basilica, inasmuch as it possesses the tomb of one of the chief witnesses of Jesus’ Ascension. It is still the stational church; but for now several centuries, the Pope and sacred college of Cardinals repair to the Lateran basilica. It is in this venerable church, dedicated by Constantine to the Saviour of the world, that is closed our yearly series of the mysteries whereby the Son of God wrought our salvation.

In these two magnificent basilicas, as well as in the humblest church of Christendom, the liturgical symbol of the feast is the Paschal Candle. It was first lighted on the night of the Resurrection, and was to remind us, by its forty days’ presence, of the time which Jesus spent among His brethren, after He had risen from the grave. The eyes of the faithful are fixed upon it, and its light seems to be burning more brightly, now that we are about to lose it. Let us bless our holy mother Church, whom the Holy Ghost has taught to instruct us and excite us to devotion by so many admirable symbols. Let us glorify our divine master, who says, speaking of Himself: ‘I am the light of the world.'[21]

The Introit is the solemn announcement of to-day’s mystery. It is formed of the angels’ words to the apostles: Jesus has ascended into heaven; He is to come down again at the last day.

Introit

Viri Galilæi, quid admiramini, aspicientes in cœlum? Alleluia: quemadmodum vidistis eum ascendentem in cœlum, ita veniet. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.
Ps. Omnes gentes plaudite manibus: jubilate Deo in voce exsultationis.
℣. Gloria Patri. Viri Galilæi.
Ye men of Galilee! why look ye wondering, up to heaven? Alleluia. As ye have seen him ascending into heaven, so shall he come. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.
Ps. Clap your hands, all ye nations: shout unto God, with the voice of joy.
℣. Glory. &c. Ye men, &c.

In the Collect, the Church sums up the prayers of her children, and beseeches God to grant them the grace of keeping their hearts fixed on their Redeemer, and of desiring to be united with Him in that home above, which He has gone to prepare for them.

Collect

Concede, quæsumus, omnipotens Deus: ut qui hodierna die Unigenitum tuum Redemptorem nostrum ad cœlos ascendisse credimus, ipsi quoque mente in cœlestibus habitemus. Per eumdem.
Grant, we beseech thee, O almighty God, that we, who believe that thy only-begotten Son, our Redeemer, ascended this day into heaven, may also dwell there in desire. Through the same &c.

Epistle

Lectio Actuum Apostolorum.

Cap. i.

Primum quidem sermonem feci de omnibus, o Theophile, quæ cœpit Jesus facere et docere, usque in diem, qua præcipiens apostolis per Spiritum Sanctum, quos elegit, assumptus est: quibus et praebuit seipsum vivum post passionem suam in multis argumentis, per dies quadraginta apparens eis, et loquens de regno Dei. Et convescens, præcepit eis ab Jerosolymis ne discederent, sed expectarent promissionem Patris, quam audistis (inquit) per os meum: quia Joannes quidem baptizavit aqua, vos autem baptizabimini Spiritu Sancto non post multos hos dies. Igitur qui convenerant interrogabant eum dicentes: Domine, si in tempore hoc restitues regnum Israel? Dixit autem eis: Non est vestrum nosse tempora vel momenta, quæ Pater posuit in sua potestate: sed accipietis virtutem supervenientis Spiritus Sancti in vos, et eritis mihi testes in Jerusalem, et in omni Judæa, et Samaria, et usque ad ultimum terræ. Et cum hæc dixisset, videntibus illis, elevatus est: et nubes suscepit eum ab oculis eorum. Cumque intuerentur in cœlum euntem illum, ecce duo viri adstiterunt juxta illos in vestibus albis, qui et dixerunt: Viri Galilæi, quid statis aspicientes in cœlum? Hic Jesus, qui assumptus est a vobis in cœlum, sic veniet, quemadmodum vidistis eum euntem in cœlum.
Lesson from the Acts of the Apostles.

Ch. i.

The former treatise I made, O Theophilus, of all things which Jesus began to do and to teach, until the day on which, giving commandments by the Holy Ghost to the apostles whom he had chosen, he was taken up. To whom also he showed himself alive after his passion, by many proofs, for forty days appearing to them and speaking of the kingdom of God. And eating together with them, he commanded them, that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but should wait for the promise of the Father, which you have heard (saith he) by my mouth; for John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. They, therefore, who were come together asked him, saying: Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? But he said to them: It is not for you to know the times or moments which the Father hath put in his own power; but you shall receive the power of the Holy Ghost coming upon you, and you shall be witnesses unto me in Jerusalem, and in all Judæa, and Samaria, and even to the uttermost part of the earth. And when he had said these things, while they looked on, he was raised up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they were beholding him going up to heaven, behold two men stood by them in white garments. Who also said: Ye men of Galilee, why stand you looking up to heaven? This Jesus who is taken from you into heaven, shall so come as you have seen him going into heaven.

This admirable description of our Jesus’ Ascension, brings the mystery so vividly before us, that we almost seem to see the happy group on Mount Olivet. With what affection the disciples gaze upon the divine Master as they see Him rising up towards heaven, and stretching out His hand to bless them! Their eyes, though full of tears, are riveted on the cloud which has come between themselves and Jesus. They are alone on the mount; Jesus’ visible presence is taken from them. How wretched would they not feel in the desert land of their exile, were it not for His supporting grace, and for that holy Spirit who is about to come down and create within them a new being? So then, it is only in heaven that they can ever again see the face of Jesus, who, God as He is, deigned to be their Master for three long happy years, and on the evening of the Last Supper, called them His friends!

Neither are they the only ones who feel this separation. Our earth leaped with joy as the Son of God walked upon it; that joy is now past. It had looked forward, for four thousand years, for the glory of being the dwelling-place of its Creator; that glory is now gone. The nations are in expectation of a Deliverer, and though, with the exception of the people of Judea and Galilee, men are not aware that this Deliverer has come and gone again,—it shall not long be so. They shall hear of His birth, and His life, and His works; they shall hear of His triumphant Ascension, too, for holy Church shall proclaim it in every country of the earth. Eighteen hundred years have elapsed since Ho left this world, and our respectful and loving farewell blends with that which His disciples gave Him when He was mounting up to heaven. Like them, we feel His absence; but like them, we also rejoice in the thought that He is seated at the right hand of His Father, beautiful in His kingly glory. Thou, dear Jesus! hast entered into Thy rest! We adore Thee on Thy throne, we Thy redeemed and the fruit of Thy victory. Bless us! Draw us to Thyself, and grant that Thy last coming may be to us a source of joy rather than of fear!

The two Alleluia-versicles give us the words of the royal psalmist, wherein he celebrates the glorious Ascension of the future Messias, the acclamations of the angels, the loud music of heaven’s trumpets, the gorgeous pageant of the countless fortunate captives of limbo whom the conqueror leads up, as His trophy, to heaven.

Alleluia, alleluia. ℣. Ascendit Deus in jubilatione, et Dominus in voce tubæ. Alleluia.
℣. Dominus in Sina in sancto, ascendens in altum, captivam duxit captivitatem. Alleluia.
Alleluia, alleluia. ℣. God ascended in triumph, and the Lord at the sound of the trumpet. Alleluia.
℣. The Lord on Sina, in his holy place, ascending on high, hath led captivity captive. Alleluia.

Gospel

Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Marcum.

Cap. xvi.

In illo tempore: Recumbentibus undecim discipulis, apparuit illis Jesus, et exprobravit incredulitatem eorum et duritiam cordis: quia iis, qui viderant eum resurrexisse, non crediderunt. Et dixit eis: Euntes in mundum universum,prædicate Evangelium omni creaturæ. Qui crediderit et baptizatusfuerit,salvus erit: qui vero non crediderit, condemnabitur. Signa autem eos, qui crediderint, hæc sequentur: In nomine meo dæmonia ejicient; linguis loquentur novis: serpentes tollent: et si mortiferum quid biberint, non eis nocebit: super ægros manus imponen t, et bene habebunt. Et Dominus quidem Jesus, postquam locutus est eis, assumptus est in cœlum, et sedet a dextris Dei. Illi autem profecti prædicaverunt ubique, Domino cooperante, et sermonem confirmante,sequentibus signis.
Sequel of the holy Gospel according to Mark.

Ch. xvi.

At that time: Jesus appeared to the eleven as they were at table; and he upbraided them with their incredulity and hardness of heart, because they did not believe them who had seen him after he was risen again. And he said to them: Go ye into the whole world, and preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be condemned. And these signs shall follow them that believe: In my name they shall cast out devils: they shall speak with new tongues: they shall take up serpents: and if they shall drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them: they shall lay hands upon the sick, and they shall recover. And the Lord Jesus after he had spoken to them was taken up into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God. But they going preached everywhere; the Lord working withal, and confirming the word with signs that followed.

The deacon having sung these words, an acolyte ascends the arabo and extinguishes the Paschal Candle, the sweet symbol of our Jesus’ presence for the forty days after His resurrection. This expressive rite tells us of the widowhood of holy mother Church, and that we, when we would contemplate our beloved Lord, must turn our hearts to heaven, for it is there that He is to be seen. Alas! how short was His stay here below, and how quickly the time passed! How many ages have gone by, and how many must still come over this poor earth of ours, before she can again behold His face!

The Church languishes after Him, in this dreary exile of the vale of tears, taking care of us, the children her Jesus has given her by His holy Spirit. She feels His absence; and, if we are Christians, we shall feel it too. Oh! when will the day come, whereon reunited to our bodies, we shall be taken up in the clouds to meet Christ, and be with our Lord for ever![22] Then, and then only, shall we have attained the end for which we were created.

All the mysteries of the Word Incarnate were to close with His Ascension; all the graces we receive are to end with ours. This world is but a figure that passeth away;[23] and we are hastening through it to rejoin our divine Leader. In Him are our life and our happiness; it is vain to seek them elsewhere. Whatever brings us nearer to Jesus, is good; whatever alienates us from Him is evil. The mystery of the Ascension is the last ray of light given to us by our Creator, whereby He shows us the path to our heavenly country. If our heart is seeking its Jesus, and longs to come to Him, it is alive with the true life; if its energies are spent upon created things, and it feels no attraction for its Jesus, it is dead.

Let us, therefore, lift up our eyes, as did the disciples, and follow in desire Him who this day ascends to heaven, and prepares a place there for each of His faithful servants. Sursum corda! Hearts on heaven! It is the parting word of our brethren, who accompany the divine Conqueror in His Ascension; it is the hymn wherewith the angels, coming, down to meet their King, invite us to ascend and fill up the vacant thrones: Sursum corda!

Farewell, dear paschal torch, that hast gladdened us with thy lovely flame! Thou hast sweetly spoken to us of Jesus, our light in the darkness of our pilgrimage; and now thou leavest us, telling us that He is no longer to be seen here below, and that we must follow Him to heaven, if we would again behold Him. Farewell, loved symbol made by the hand of our mother, the Church, that thou mightest speak to our hearts! The impressions excited within us, as we looked upon thee, during this holy season of Easter, shall not be forgotten. Thou wast the herald of our Pasch; thy leaving reminds us that the glad time is drawing to its close.

For the Offertory-antiphon, the Church uses the words of David, as before the Gospel. She is taken up with this one glad thought: the triumph of her Spouse, and the joy it caused in heaven. She would have this joy to be shared in by us who are on earth.

Offertory

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

Our desires, on this day, should be that we may follow our Jesus to life everlasting, and overcome all the hindrances that we may have to encounter on the way thither. This is what the Church asks of God for us, in the Secret.

Secret

Suscipe, Domine, munera, quæ pro Filii tui gloriosa Ascensione deferimus; et concede propitius; ut a præsentibus periculis liberemur, et ad vitam perveniamus æternam. Per eumdem.
Receive, O Lord, the offerings we make in memory of the glorious Ascension of thy Son: and mercifully grant, that we may both be delivered from present danger, and arrive at everlasting life. Through the same, &c.

Preface

Vere dignum et justum est, æquum et salutare, nos tibi semper et ubique gratias agere: Domine sancte, Pater omnipotens, æterne Deus, per Christum Dominum nostrum; qui post Resurrectionem suam omnibus discipulis suis manifestus apparuit, et ipsiscernentibus est elevatus in cœlum, ut nos divinitatis suæ tribueret esse participes. Et ideo cum Angelis et Archangelis, cum Thronis et Dominationibus, cumque omni militia cœlestis exercitus, hymnum gloriæ tuæ canimus, sine fine dicentes: Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus.
It is truly meet and just, right and available to salvation, that we should always and in all places give thanks to thee, O holy Lord, Father almighty, eternal God, through Christ our Lord; who after his Resurrection appeared openly to all his disciples, and, in their presence ascended into heaven, to make us partakers of his divine nature. And therefore, with the Angels and Archangels, with the Thrones and Dominations, and with all the heavenly host, we sing a hymn to thy glory, saying unceasingly: Holy, holy, holy.

It is the royal prophet who again speaks in the Communion-anthem. He foretells, a thousand years before the event, that the Emmanuel is to ascend from the east. Mount Olivet, whence our Lord took His departure to His Father’s kingdom, is to the east of Jerusalem.

Communion

Psallite Domino, qui ascendit super cœlos cœlorum ad orientem, alleluia.
Sing to the Lord, who hath ascended towards the east, above all the heavens, alleluia.

The faithful people has just confirmed its union with its divine Head, by receiving the adorable Sacrament; the Church asks of God that this mystery, which contains Jesus within it in an invisible manner, may work in us what it outwardly expresses.

Postcommunion

Præsta nobis, quæsumus omnipotens et misericors Deus, ut quæ visibilibus mysteriis sumenda percepimus, invisibili consequamur effectu. Per Dominum.
Grant, we beseech thee, O almighty and most merciful God, that we may obtain the invisible effects of the visible mysteries we have received. Through, &c.

 

NOON

 

A tradition, handed down from the early ages, and confirmed by the revelations of the saints, tells us that the Ascension of our Lord took place at the hour of noon. The Carmelites of St. Teresa’s reform honour this pious tradition by assembling in the choir, at the hour of midday on the Ascension, and spending it in the contemplation of this last of Jesus’ mysteries, following Him, in thought and desire, to the throne of His glory.

Let us also follow Him; but before looking on the bright noon which smiles on His triumph, let us go back in thought to His first coming among us. It was at midnight, in the stable of Bethlehem. That dark and silent hour was an appropriate commencement to the three and thirty years of His life on earth. He had come to accomplish a great mission: year by year and day by day, He laboured in its fulfilment. It was nigh to its fulfilment, when men laid their sacrilegious hands upon Him, and nailed Him to a cross. It was midday, when He was thus raised up in the air; but the eternal Father would not permit the sun to shine on Jesus’ humiliation. Darkness covered the face of the earth; and that day had no noon. Three hours after, the sun reappeared. Three days after, the Crucified rose again from the tomb, and it was at the early dawn of light.

On this day, yea at this very hour, His work is completed. He has redeemed us, by His Blood, from our sins; He has conquered death by His Resurrection to life: had He not a right to choose, for His Ascension, the hour when the sun is pouring forth his warmest and brightest beams? Hail, holy hour of noon, sacred with thy double consecration, which reminds us daily of the mercy and of the triumph of our Emmanuel, of salvation by His cross, and of heaven by His Ascension!

But art not Thou, O Jesus! O Sun of Justice! art not Thou Thyself the noontide of our souls? Where are we to find that fullness of light for which we were created, where that burning of eternal love which alone can satisfy our longing hearts, but in Thee, who camest down upon the earth to dispel our darkness and our cold? It is in this hope that we venture to address Thee in the sublime words of Thy faithful bride Gertrude: ‘O Love, O noontide, whose ardours are so soothing! Thou art the hour of sacred rest; and the unruffled peace I taste in thee is all my delight. O Thou whom my soul loveth, Thou who art my chosen and my elect above all creatures, tell me, show me, where Thou feedest Thy flock, where Thou liest to rest in the midday. My heart kindles with rapture at thought of Thy tranquil rest at noon! Oh that it were given me to come so near to Thee, that I might be not only near Thee, but in Thee! Beneath Thy genial ray, O Sun of justice, the flowers of all the virtues would spring forth from me, who am but dust and ashes. Then would my soul, rendered fruitful by Thee, my Master and my Spouse, bring forth the noble fruit of every perfection. Then should I be led forth from this valley of sorrows, and be admitted to behold Thy face, so long, so wistfully longed for; and then would it be my everlasting happiness to think that Thou hast not disdained, O Thou spotless Mirror, to unite Thyself to a sinner like me!’[24]

 

VESPERS

 

The Lord Jesus has disappeared from our earth, but His memory and His promises are treasured in the heart of the Church. She follows in spirit the glorious triumph of her Spouse, a triumph so well deserved by His having accomplished the world’s Redemption. She keenly feels her widowhood; but she awaits, with unshaken confidence, the promised Comforter. The hours of this trying day are passing away, and evening is coming on; she once more assembles her children, and, in the Office of Vespers, commemorates all that has happened in this sublime mystery of the Ascension.

The antiphons of the psalms relate the great event of noon; the tone of sadness that runs through their melody, is in keeping with the feelings excited by the separation.

Ant. Viri Galilæi, quid aspicitis in cœlum? Hic Jesus qui assumptus est a vobis in cœlum, sic veniet, alleluia.
Ant. Ye men of Galilee, why look ye up to heaven? This Jesus, who is taken from you into heaven, shall so come, alleluia.

Psalm Dixit Dominus, page 92.


Ant. Cumque intuerentur in cœlum euntem illum, dixerunt, alleluia.
Ant. And when they beheld him going up to heaven, they said: alleluia.

Psalm Confitebor, page 93.


Ant. Elevatis manibus, benedixit eis, et ferebatur in cœlum, alleluia.
Ant. Lifting up his hands, he blessed them, and was carried up to heaven, alleluia.

Psalm Beatus vir, page 94.


Ant. Exaltate regem regum, et hymnum dicite Deo, alleluia.
Ant. Praise ye the King of kings, and sing a hymn to God, alleluia.

Psalm Laudate, pueri, page 95.


Ant. Videntibus illis elevatus est, et nubes suscepit eum in cœlo, alleluia.
Ant. As they looked on, he was raised up, and a cloud received him into heaven, alleluia.

Psalm 116

Laudate Dominum, omnes gentes: laudate eum, omnes populi.
Quoniam confirmata est super nos misericordia ejus: et veritas Domini manet in æternum.

Ant. Videntibus illis elevatus est, et nubes suscepit eum in cœlo, alleluia.
O praise the Lord, all ye nations: praise him all ye people.
For his mercy is confirmed upon us: and the truth of the Lord remaineth for ever.

Ant. As they looked on, he was raised up, and a cloud received him into heaven, alleluia.

Capitulum
(Acts of the Apostles, i.)

Primum quidem sermonem feci de omnibus, o Theophile, quae cœpit Jesus facere et docere, usque in diem qua præcipiens apostolis per Spiritum Sanctum, quos elegit, assumptus est.
The former treatise I made, O Theophilus, of all things which Jesus began to do and to teach, until the day on which, giving commandments by the Holy Ghost to the apostles whom he had chosen, he was taken up.

The hymn was composed by St. Ambrose, and is full of sweetness; it was somewhat changed in the seventeenth century, and in this changed form we now have it.

Hymn*

Salutis humanæ sator,
Jesu, voluptas cordium,
Orbis redempti conditor,
Et casta lux amantium.

Qua victus es clementia,
Ut nostra ferres crimina,
Mortem subires innocens,
A morte nos ut tolleres?

Perrumpis infernum chaos,
Vinctis catenas detrahis:
Victor triumpho nobili,
Ad dexteram Patris sedes.

Te cogat indulgentia,
Ut damna nostra sarcias,
Tuique vultus compotes
Dites beato lumine.

Tu dux ad astra et semita,
Sis meta nostris cordibus,
Sis lacrymarum gaudium,
Sis dulce vitæ præmium.

Amen.

℣. Dominus in cœlo, alleluia.
℟. Paravit sedem suam, alleluia.
O Jesus Redeemer of mankind,
joy of our hearts,
Creator of the world redeemed,
and chaste light of them that love thee.

What mercy was it that led thee
to take upon thee our sins?
and suffer death, O innocent victim,
that thou mightest free us from death?

Thou brokest the gates of hell,
and the chains of them that were bound.
A conqueror, with noblest triumph,
thou now sittest at the right hand of the Father.

May thy clemency lead thee
to repair our losses.
Oh! give us to see thy Face,
and enrich us with the blessed light.

Be thou our guide and path to heaven;
be thou the object of our heart’s desire;
be thou the joy of our tears,
and the sweet recompense of a life spent for thee!

Amen.

℣. The Lord, in heaven, alleluia.
℟. Hath prepared his throne, alleluia.

The Magnificat-anthem is an appeal made to our Jesus, that He would he mindful of His own and His Father’s promise, and not delay to console His bride by sending her the holy Spirit. The Church repeats this antiphon every day, till the arrival of the heavenly Guest.

Antiphon of the Magnificat

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.

Oremus.

Concede, quæsumus omnipotens Deus: ut qui hodierna die Unigenitum tuum redemptorem nostrum ad cœlos ascendisse credimus, ipsi quoque mente in cœlestibus habitemus. Per eumdem.
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 us by the Father, alleluia.

Let us Pray.

Grant, we beseech thee, O almighty God, that we, who believe that thy only-begotten Son, our Redeemer, ascended this day into heaven, may also dwell there in desire. Through the same, &c.

During the days of the octave, we will listen to the several Churches of old celebrating, each in its own style, but all with one and the same faith, the Ascension of our Redeemer. Let us give the first place to the Greek Church, which, in her usual pompous style, commemorates the glories of this mystery. It is her hymn for the evening Office.

Hymn
(In Assumptione Domini, ad Vesperas)

Quando pervenisti, Christe, in montem Olivarum, Patris adimpleturus beneplacitum, obstupuerunt cœlestes angeli, et horruerunt inferorum habitatores. Adstabant autem discipuli cum gaudio trementes, dum ipsis loquereris; tamquam thronus vero, ex adverso præparata erat nubes expectans; portis autem apertis in decore suo cœlum apparebat; et terræ abscondita revelat, ut notus fiat Adæ descensus et reascensus. Sed vestigia quidem exaltabantur tamquam a manu: os vero multum benedicebat, quamdiu audiebatur; nubes excipiebat, et cœlum te intus suscepit. Opus istud magnum præter rerum ordin em operatus es, Domine, ad salutem animarum nostrarum.

Delapsam in inferiores partes terræ naturam Adæ a te, Deus, renovatam, super omnem principatum et potestatem tecum hodie sustulisti; quia enim diligebas, tecum collocasti; quia commiserebaris, tibi univisti; quia unieras simul passus es; quia passus es impassibilis, conglorificasti. At incorporei: Quis est, aiebant, iste vir speciosus? sed non tantum homo, Deus autem et homo, utramque proferens naturam. Unde alii angeli in stolis circum discipulos volantes clamabant: Viri Galilæi, qui a vobis abiit hic Jesus homo Deus, rursum veniet Deus homo, judex vivorum et mortuorum, fidelibus autem dans peccatorum veniam et magnam misericordiam.

Quando assumptus es in gloria, Christe Deus, videntibus discipulis, nubes te cum carne suscipiebant, portæ cœli sublatæ sunt; Angelorum chorus in exsultatione lætabatur; supernæ Virtutes clamabant dicentes: Attollite portas, principes vestras, et introibit Rex gloriæ. Discipuli autem obstupefacti dicebant: Ne separeris a nobis, Pastor bone, sed mitte nobis sanctissimum Spiritum tuum, dirigentem et firmantem animas nostras.

Domine, postquam utpote bonus, mysterium a sæculis et generationibus absconditum implevisti, in montem Olivarum cum discipulis tuis venisti, habens eam quæ te creatorem et omnium opificem genuit. Eam enim quæ in passione tua materno more præ omnibus doluit, oportebat et ob gloriam carnis tuæ majori perfrui gaudio; cujus et nos participes effecti, in tua ad cœlos ascensione, Domine, magnam tuam in nos misericordiam glorificamus.
When thou, O Christ, camest to Mount Olivet, there to fulfil the good pleasure of thy Father, the angels of heaven were in admiration, and the inhabitants of hell trembled. Thy disciples, too, were there, and they thrilled with joy as thou spokest unto them. A cloud, like a throne, hovered above in front, awaiting thee; the gates of heaven were opened, showing the beauty of its courts, and revealing its hidden treasures to the earth, that Adam might thus learn whence he had fallen and whither he was to reascend. Thy feet were suddenly lifted up, as though some hand were raising them. Thy words, as long as they were heard, were nought but blessing. The cloud received thee, and heaven welcomed thee within its bosom. It was for the salvation of our souls, that thou, O Lord, didst achieve this great work, this work surpassing nature’s law.

Thou, O God, didst on this day raise up together with thyself, above all Principalities and Powers, the nature of Adam which had fallen into the deep abyss, but which was restored by thee. Because thou lovedst it, thou placedst it on thine own throne; because thou hadst pity on it, thou unitedst it to thyself; because thou hadst thus united it, thou didst suffer with it; because thou, the impassible, didst thus suffer, thou gavest it to share in thy glory. The angels cried out: ‘Who is this beautiful Man? nay, not Man only, but God and Man, having the Nature of both? ’ Other angels in white garments, hovered round the disciples, and exclaimed: ‘Ye men of Galilee! this Jesus, this ManGod, who hath left you will return the God-Man, the Judge of the living and the dead, to give unto them that are faithful pardon and abundant mercy.’

When thou, O Christ our God, didst ascend into glory, in the sight of thy disciples, a cloud received thee in thy human Nature, and the gates of heaven were uplifted; the angelic choirs exulted with great joy; the heavenly Powers cried out, saying: ‘Lift up your gates, O ye princes! and the King of glory shall enter in! ’ The disciples were amazed, and said to thee: ‘Leave us not, good Shepherd! but send unto us thy holy Spirit, that he may guide and strengthen our souls! ’

After having, O Lord, in thy goodness, accomplished the mystery that was hidden from ages and generations, thou didst go, together with thy disciples to Mount Olivet, having with thee her that had given birth to thee the Creator and Maker of all creatures. It was meet that she, who being thy Mother, had mourned more than all others over thy Passion, should also have greater joy in the glory thus conferred upon thy human Nature. We, therefore, who share in the joy she had in thine Ascension glorify thy great mercy.

O Jesus, our Emmanuel! Thy work is done, and this is the day of Thy entering into Thy rest. In the beginning of the world, Thou didst spend six days in harmonizing the varied portions of the creation; after which, Thou enteredst again into Thy rest. When, later on, Thou wouldst repair Thy work, which satan’s malice had deranged, Thy love induced Thee to live among us for three-and-thirty years, during which Thou didst work our redemption, and restoredst us to the holiness and honour whence we had fallen. Whatsoever had been assigned Thee in the eternal decrees of the blessed Trinity, whatsoever had been foretold of Thee by the prophets, all was done, dear Jesus! not an iota of it all was forgotten. Thy triumphant Ascension was the close of the mission Thou hadst so mercifully undertaken. It was Thy second entrance into Thy rest; but, this time, it was with our human nature which Thou hadst assumed, and which was now to receive divine honour. Thou wouldst have companions in Thine Ascension: the souls Thou hadst liberated from limbo; yea, and when about to leave us, Thou saidst this word of consolation to us: ‘I go to prepare a place for you!'[25]

Confiding O Jesus! in this promise; resolved to follow Thee in all the mysteries achieved by Thee for our sake—in the humility of Thy birth at Bethlehem, in Thy sufferings on Calvary, in the joy of Thy Resurrection—we hope, also, to imitate Thee, when our mortal course is run, in Thy glorious Ascension. Meanwhile, we unite with the holy apostles who rejoiced at Thy triumph, and with the ransomed captives of limbo who entered heaven in Thy company. Watch over us, O divine Shepherd, while we aro in our exile! Tend Thy faithful sheep; let none be lost; lead them all to Thy fold. The mystery of Thine Ascension shows us the object of our existence; it reanimates us to study more attentively, and love more warmly, all Thy other mysteries. Our one ambition, then, our one desire, shall henceforth be our own ascension to heaven and to Thee. It was for this Thou camest into the world: by humbling Thyself to our lowliness, to exalt us to Thine own majesty; and by making Thyself Man, to make man a partaker of Thy Divinity. But until the happy day of our union with Thee, what would become of us without that Power of the Most High whom Thou hast promised to send us, that He may bring us patience during our pilgrimage, fidelity to our absent King, and that solace of a heart exiled from its God, love? Come, then, O holy Spirit! Support our weakness; fix the eye of our souls on the heaven where our King awaits us; and never permit us to set our hearts on a world which, had it every other charm, has not the infinite one of Jesus’ visible presence!

Let us close our feast with this beautiful prayer, taken from the Mozarabic breviary.

Prayer

Unigenite Dei Filius, qui devicta morte de terrenis ad cœlestia transitum faciens, quasi filius hominis apparens, in throno magnam claritatem habens, quem omnis militia cœlestis exercitus angelorum laudat: præbe nobis, ut nullis flagitiorum vinculis in corde hujus saeculi illigemur, qui te ad Patrem ascendisse gloriosa fidei devotione concinimus, ut illic indesinenter cordis nostri dirigatur obtutus, quo tu ascendisti post vulnera gloriosus. Amen.
Only-begotten Son of God! who, having conquered death, didst pass from earth to heaven: who, as Son of Man, art seated in great glory on thy throne, receiving praise from the whole angelic host! grant that we, who in the jubilant devotion of our faith, celebrate thine Ascension to the Father, may not be fettered by the chains of sin to the love of this world; and that the aim of our hearts may unceasingly be directed to the heaven, whither thou didst ascend in glory, after thy Passion. Amen.

[1] Ps. xcv. xcvi. xcvii.
[2] Ps. xxiii. 7.
[3] St. Mark, xvi. 14.
[4] Ibid. 15, 16.
[5] St. Mark, xvi. 17, 18.
[6] St. Luke, xxiv. 49.
[7] Acts, i. 4, 5.
[8] St. John, xiv. 28.
[9] Ps. cix. 7.
[10] Acts, i. 12.
[11] Ibid. 6.
[12] Ibid. 7.
[13] Acts, i. 8.
[14] Constit. Apost. lib. v. cap. xix.
[15] St. Luke, xxiv. 51.
[16] Acts, i. 9.
[17] Acts, i. 10, 11.
[18] St. John, iii. 17.
[19] 1 St. Luke, xxiv. 52.
[20] St. Augustine, Ep. ad Januar.
[21] St. John, viii. 12.
[22] 1 Thess, iv. 16.
[23] 1 Cor. vii. 31.
[24] Exercitia S. Gertrudis, Die V. * In the monastic rite, it is retained in its original form, as written by St. Ambrose. It is preceded by the following responsory: ℟. breve.—Ascendens Christus in altum, * Alleluia, alleluia. Ascendens. ℣. Captivam duxit captivitatem. Alleluia. Gloria Patri, &c. Ascendens. Jesu, nostra redemptio, Amor et desiderium, Deus Creator omnium, Homo in fine temporum. Quæ te vicit dementia, Ut ferres nostra crimina? Crudelem mortem patiens, Ut nos a morte tolieres? Inferni claustra penetrans, Tuos captivos redimens, Victor triumpho nobili, Ad dextram Patris residens. Ipsa te cogat pietas, Ut mala nostra superes Parcendo, et voti compotes, Nos tuo vultu saties. Tu esto nostrum gaudium, Qui es futurus præmium; Sit nostra in te gloria Per cuncta semper sæcula. Amen.
[25] St. John, xiv. 2.

 

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 feast of the Ascension shows us the work of God in its completion. Hence it is that the Church, in her daily offering of the holy sacrifice, thus addresses the eternal Father: the words occur immediately after the consecration, and contain the motives of her confidence in the divine mercy: ‘Wherefore, O Lord, we Thy servants, as also Thy holy people, calling to mind the blessed Passion of Christ Thy Son our Lord, His Resurrection from the dead, and His admirable Ascension into heaven, offer unto Thy most excellent Majesty a pure, holy, and unspotted Host.’ It is not enough for man to hope in the merits of his Redeemer’s Passion, which cleansed him from his sins; it is not enough for him to add to the commemoration of the Passion that of the Resurrection, whereby our Redeemer conquered death; man is not saved, he is not reinstated, except by uniting these two mysteries with a third: the Ascension of the same Jesus who was crucified and rose again. During the forty days of His glorified life on earth, Jesus was still an exile; and, like Him, we also are exiles until such time as the gate of heaven, which has been closed for four thousand years, shall be thrown open, both for Him and for us.

God, in His infinite goodness, made man for a nobler end than that of being mere lord of creation; He gave him a higher destiny than that of knowing such truths as his natural powers could grasp, and of practising virtues that were within the reach of his moral capabilities, and of paying to his Creator an imperfect worship. In His omnipotence and love, He gave to this frail creature an end far above his nature. Though inferior to the angel, and uniting in himself the two natures of matter and spirit, man was created to the same end as the angel. Both were to dwell for eternity in heaven; both were to be eternally happy in the face-to-face vision of God, that is, in the closest union with the sovereign Good. Grace—that wondrous and divine power—was to fit them for the supernatural end prepared for them by the gratuitous goodness of their Creator. This was the design which God had decreed from all eternity: to raise up to Himself these creatures that He had drawn out of nothingness, and to enrich them, agreeably to their sublime destiny, with the treasures of His love and His light.

We know the history of the fallen angels. They revolted against the commandment given them by God as a test of their fidelity, and as a condition of their being admitted into eternal happiness. Rebels were found in each of the choirs. They fell; but the fall and its punishment were personal, and injured none but the actual transgressors. The angels who remained faithful were at once rewarded with the beatific vision and possession of the sovereign Good. Thus did God vouchsafe to make created beings partake in His own infinite happiness: the first elect were the good angels of the nine choirs.

Man was created after the angels; he too fell, and his sin severed the link which united him with God. The human race was, at that time, represented by one man and woman; when they fell, all fell. The gate of heaven was then shut against mankind, for the fall of Adam and Eve implicated us their children; neither could they transmit to us an inheritance which they themselves had lost. Instead of a quick and happy passage through this world, and then a glorious ascension into heaven, we were to have a life short indeed but full of misery, a grave, and corruption. As to our soul, even had she aspired to the supernatural happiness for which she was created, she could never have attained to it. Man had preferred earth for his portion, and the earth was given to him; but this only for a few short years, after which others would take his place, disappear in their turn, and so on to the end, as long as it should please God to perpetuate this fallen portion of His creation.

Yes, it is thus we deserved to be treated; but our merciful Creator had compassion upon us. He hated sin; but He had created us that He might make us partakers of His own glory, and He would not have His design frustrated. The earth was not to be an abode for man to be merely born, live a few days, and then die. When the fulness of time should come, there was to appear in the world a Man, not indeed the first of a new creation, but one like ourselves and of our own race, or, as the apostle expresses it, ‘made of a woman.’[1] This Man, who was to be heavenly and yet of earth, would share our misfortunes with us; He would die like us; He would be buried like us; but, on the third day, He would rise again, and men would see Him resplendent with glory and immortality. What a joy for us, who have within us ‘the answer of death,’ to see such a victory gained by One, who is one of ourselves, ‘flesh of our flesh!’

Thus were the divine intentions to be realized in our regard. Our earth presents to our Creator a new Adam. He cannot stay here, for He has conquered death; He must ascend to heaven, and if her gates be closed, she must open them and receive Him. ‘Lift up your gates, O ye princes! and be ye lifted up, O eternal gates! and the King of glory shall enter in!'[2] Oh that He would take us thither with Him, for He is our brother, and He assures us that His ‘delight is to be with the children of men’![3] But what a joy it is for us to see our Jesus ascend to heaven! He is the holiest, the purest, the loveliest, of our race; He is the Son of a spotless Mother: let Him go and represent us in the kingdom of our inheritance. It is our own earth that sends Him; she is no longer a desert, now that she has produced such a flower, and such a fruit, for heaven. A flood of light poured into this lowly vale of tears, when the gates of heaven were raised up to receive Him. ‘Be Thou exalted, O Lord, in Thine own strength! and we, who are still on the earth, will sing and praise Thy power ’![4] Receive, O eternal Father, the brother whom we send to Thee; sinners though we are, this brother of ours is infinitely holy and perfect. Where is the curse that once fastened on our earth?’The earth hath given her fruit’![5] And if we may presume so far as to see in Him the first-fruits of a future harvest to be gathered into Thy house, may we not rejoice in the thought that the Ascension of our Jesus was the day whereon Thy primal work was restored to Thee?

Let us, to-day, borrow from the Armenian Church one of her sweetest hymns. Let us unite with her in sharing in the joy felt by the holy angels, when they saw the God-Man rising from earth, and taking possession of the highest throne in heaven.

Potestates cœli territæ sunt, videntes ascensum tuum, Christe: alter ad alterum pavescentes dicebant: quis est iste rex gloriæ?

Hic est incarnatus Deus Verbum, qui in cruce peccatum occidit, et supervolans gloriose, venit in cœlum, Dominus fortis virtute sua.

Hic est qui de monumento surrexit, et destruxit infernum, atque superseandens gloriose venit ad Patrem, Dominus potens in praelio.

Qui ascendit hodie divina potestate in patrio curru, ministrantibus ei angelicis choris, qui canebant dicentes: Attollite portas, principes, vestras, et introibit rex gloriae.

Stupuerunt supernae Potestates, et tremenda voce clamabant ad invicem: Quis est iste rex gloriae, qui venit in carne et mira virtute? Attollite, attollite portas, principes, vestras, et introibit rex gloriae.

Modulabantur superni Principatus, mirabili voce cantabant canticum novum, dicentes: Ipse est rex gloriae, salvator mundi et liberator generis humani; attollite portas, principes, vestras, et introibit rex gloriæ.

Qui complantati facti sumus similitudinis mortis tuæ, Fili Dei, dignos fac nos conformes fieri tibi, gloriæ rex; tibi cantent Ecclesiæ sanctorum cantica spiritualia.

Veterem hominem concrucifixum tibi fecisti et stimulum peccati extinxisti; liberasti nos vivifico ligno, cui affixus es, et guttæ sanguinis tui inebriarunt orbem; tibi cantent Ecclesiæ sanctorum cantica spiritualia.

Propter miserationem divinae humamtionis tuæ participes fecisti nos corporis tui et sanguinis, per sacrificium tuum Patri in odorem suavitatis oblatum, corporis a nobis sumpti, et ascendisti pellucidis nubibus, manifestatus Potestatibus ac Principatibus, qui stupefacti interrogabant: Quis est iste qui properans venit de Edom? Et per Ecclesiam tuam didicerunt multiformem sapientiam tuam; tibi cantent Ecclesiae sanctorum cantica spiritualia.

The Powers of heaven trembled, when they witnessed thine Ascension, O Christ, and said to each other in fear, 'Who is this king of glory?'

This is God the Word made Flesh, who put sin to death upon the cross, and ascending in glory, entered heaven: the Lord, mighty in his power.

This is he that rose from the tomb, and destroyed death, and now comes by a glorious Ascension, to the Father: he is the Lord, mighty in war.

This is he that ascended today, by his divine power, in his Father’s chariot: choirs of angels ministered to him, and sang, saying: ‘Lift up your gates, O ye princes, and the King of glory shall enter in!’

The heavenly powers were amazed, and cried unto each other with tremulous voice: ‘Who is this king of glory, that cometh in the flesh and in wondrous power? Lift up, lift up your gates, O ye princes, and the King of glory shall enter in!’

The Principalities of heaven were heard singing a new canticle, and saying in a tone of glad admiration: ‘It is the King of glory, the Saviour and deliverer of mankind! Lift up your gates, O ye princes, and the King of glory shall enter in!

We have been planted together in the likeness of thy death, O Son of God! Make us worthy to be made like unto thee, O King of glory! Let the Churches of the saints sing to thee their spiritual canticles!

Thou didst crucify together with thyself the old man, and thou tookest away the sting of sin; thou gavest us liberty, by the life-giving tree to which thou wast fastened, and thy Blood has inebriated the whole earth. Let the Churches of the saints sing to thee their spiritual canticles.

Through the mercy that led thy divine nature to assume ours, thou hast made us partakers of thy Body and Blood, by the sacrifice of the Body thou hadst taken to thyself, a sacrifice which thou offeredst to the Father in an odour of sweetness. Then didst thou ascend, on a bright cloud, and wast seen by the Powers and Principalities, who asked each other in wonderment: 'Who is this that cometh, in haste, from Edom?’ The faithful have been taught thy manifold wisdom. Let the Churches of the saints sing to thee their spiritual canticles!

[1] Gal. iv. 4.
[2] Ps. xxiii. 7.
[3] Prov. viii. 31.
[4] Ps. xx. 14.
[5] Ibid lxvi 7.

 

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, then, the Man who dwelt on the earth and was perfect in all holiness, has ascended into heaven. This earth, accursed of God as it was, has produced the fairest fruit of heaven; and heaven with its gates shut against our race, has had to open them for the entrance of a Son of Adam. It is the mystery of the Ascension; but it is only a part, and it behoves us to know the mystery in its fulness. Let us give ear to the apostle of the Gentiles: ‘God who is rich in mercy, through His exceeding charity wherewith He loved us even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ: and hath raised us up together with Him, and hath made us sit in the heavenly places together with Him.’[1] We have celebrated the Pasch of our Saviour’s Resurrection as our own resurrection; we must, agreeably to the apostle’s teaching, celebrate also His Ascension as our own. Let us weigh well the expression: ‘God hath made us sit in the heavenly places together with Christ.’ So then in the Ascension, it is not Jesus alone who ascends into heaven; we ascend thither with Him. It is not He alone that is enthroned there in glory; we are enthroned through and together with Him.

That we may the better understand this truth, let us remember that the Son of God did not assume our human nature with a view to the exclusive glorification of the Flesh which He united to His own divine Person. He came to be our Head. We, consequently, are His members; and where He is, we also are to be; at least, such is His intention, as He implied at the last Supper, when He said: ‘Father! I will that where I am, they also whom Thou hast given Me may be with Me, that they may see My glory which Thou hast given Me.’[2] And what is the glory given to Him by His Father? Let us hearken to the royal prophet, who, speaking of the future Ascension, says: ‘The Lord said to my Lord: Sit Thou at My right hand!’[3]

It is, then, on the very throne of the eternal Father, it is at His right hand, that we shall see Him whom the apostle calls our forerunner.[4] We shall be united with Jesus, as members to our Head; so that His glory will be ours; we shall be kings, with His kingship; He will make us partake of all that He Himself has, for He tells us that we are His joint-heirs.[5]

From this it follows that the august mystery of the Ascension, which began on the day of Jesus’ entrance into heaven, will continue, until His mystical body has received its completion by the ascension of the last of the elect. Look at that countless host of holy souls who were the earliest companions of His triumph: foremost are our first parents; then the patriarchs, the prophets, and the just of every generation of the preceding four thousand years! They had been imprisoned in limbo, but He liberated them, gave them of His own brightness, and made them His partners in the glory of His Ascension. They were His trophy; they formed His court, as He passed from earth to heaven. Well did we exclaim in the words of holy David: ‘Sing to God, ye kingdoms of the earth! Sing ye to the Lord. Sing ye to God, who mounteth above the heaven of heavens, towards the east.’[6]

The angels were ready to receive our Emmanuel; and then began that sublime dialogue, which the royal psalmist was permitted to hear and prophesy. The glad countless legion of the holy souls, who escorted the divine conqueror, cried out to the guardians of the heavenly Jerusalem: ‘Lift up your gates, O ye princes! Be ye lifted up, O eternal gates! and the King of glory shall enter in.’ The faithful angels replied: ‘Who is this King of glory?’ ‘It is the Lord,’ responded the elect of earth: ‘It is the Lord who is strong and mighty; the Lord mighty in battle.’ Well might they say this of our Jesus, who had vanquished satan, death and hell, and brought themselves to the city’s gate as a sample of His stupendous conquest. The angels repeated their question; the saints re-echoed their reply; the eternal gates were thrown open, and the King and His courtiers entered into heaven.[7]

The gates, then, are opened to receive our Redeemer, and opened He would have them remain for us to follow Him. Admirable Ascension! oh, let us linger in its contemplation! Jesus inaugurates the grand mystery by His own entrance into heaven, and then perpetuates it by the ascension of His elect of each successive generation. There is a ceaseless procession up to heaven; for some happy souls are ever finishing their purification in purgatory, while some still happier ones are winging their rapid flight direct from this earthly vale of sorrows. Hail, then, O glorious mystery! fruit of the flowers of so many mysteries; term, fulfilment, perfection of our Creator’s decree! Alas! thou hadst a long interruption by Adam’s sin; but Jesus’ triumph restored thy reign on earth, and this earth shall live in thy beauty and grace till that word shall be uttered by the angel: ‘Time shall be no more!’[8] O mystery of joy and hope, be thou accomplished in me!

Permit us, then, O Jesus, to apply to ourselves what Thou saidst to Thine apostles: ‘I go to prepare a place for you!’[9] This has been Thy aim in all Thou hast done for us: Thou camest into this world to open heaven for us. Thy holy bride, the Church, bids us fix our eyes on heaven; she points to its opened gates, and shows us the bright track through which is passing up from earth an unbroken line of souls. We are still in exile; but the eye of our faith sees Thee in that land above, Thee the Son of Man throned at the right hand of the Ancient of days.[10] How are we to reach Thee, dear Jesus? We cannot, as Thou didst, ascend by our own power: Thou must needs fulfil Thy promise, and our desire, of drawing us to Thyself.[11] It was the object after which Thy blessed Mother also sighed, when Thou didst leave her on earth; she longed for the blissful hour of Thy taking her to Thyself, and awaited Thy call with faith, labouring meanwhile for Thy glory, and living with Thee, though not seeing Thee. Give us to imitate the faith and love of this Thy Mother, that so we may apply to ourselves those words of Thine apostle: ‘We are already saved, by hope.’[12] Yes, we shall be so, if Thou send us, according to Thy promise, the holy Spirit whom we so ardently desire to receive; for He is to confirm within us all that Thy mysteries have produced in our souls; He is to be to us a pledge of our future glorious ascension.

In presenting our petitions this day to heaven, let us take, as addressed to ourselves, the sublime instructions given by the Gothic Church of Spain, on the Ascension feast, to her children.

Missa

Placeat, dilectissimi fratres, saecularium cogitationum fasce deposito, erectis in sublime mentibus subvolare: et impositam aetheris fastigio assumpti hominis communionem, sequacibus cordis oculis contueri. Ad incomparabilem nobis claritatem attonitus vocandus aspectus, est Jesus Dominus noster: humilitatem nobis terrarum cœlorum dignitate commutat: acutus necesse est visus esse respicere quo sequimur. Hodie salvator noster post assumptionem carnis, sedem repetit deitatis. Hodie hominem suum intulit Patri, quem obtulit passioni. Hunc exaltans in cœlis, quem humiliaverat in infernis. Hic visurus gloriam, qui viderat sepulturam. Et qui adversus mortem mortis suæ dedit beneficium, ad spem vitae donavit resurrectionis exemplum. Hodie rediit ad Patrem, cum tamen sine Patris, qui sibi aequalis est, potestate non venerit. Hodie ascendit in cœlum qui obsequia cœlestium cum descenderet, non amisit. Ita in Patris natura unitate consistens, ut cum homo cœlum novus intraret, novum tamen Deus hominem non haberet. Petamus igitur ab omnipotentia Patris, per nomen Filii salvatoris, gratiæ spiritalis ingressum, aeternæ beatitu- dinis donum, beatae mansionis ascensum, catholicae credulitatis augmentum, haereticae infidelitatis, excidium. Audiet profecto in confessione, quos in perditione quaesivit. Adstitit suis, qui non destitit alienis. Aderit agnitus, qui non defuit agnoscendus. Non patietur orphanos esse devotos, qui filios facere dignatus est inimicos. Dabit effectum supplicationis, qui promisit Spiritum sanctitatis. Amen.
We beseech you, dearly beloved brethren, that, laying aside the weight of worldly thoughts, you would raise up your minds, and soar to heavenly things, and see, with the attentive eye of the heart, how Christ placed your own human nature, which he had assumed, in the highest heavens. The incomparable brightness on which we are invited to fix our astonished gaze, is Jesus our Lord. He exchanges the lowliness of this earthly dwelling for the glory of heaven. How quick must our sight be, that it may see the land, whither we are to follow him! To-day our Saviour, after assuming our human nature, returned to the throne of the Godhead. Today, he offered to his Father that same human nature, which he had previously offered to the endurance of his Passion. He exalted in heaven the Humanity that he had humbled in limbo. He well deserved to see glory, who had seen the tomb. He who conferred on us his own death, that he might put ours to death, gave us the example of his Resurrection, that he might gladden us with the hope of life. To-day, he returned to the Father, though he had not been here on earth without possessing all the power of the Father, who is co-equal with him. To-day, he ascended into heaven, though he had not lost the adoration of the angels when he descended upon our earth. One with the Father in unity of substance, he so entered into heaven as the new Man, that he was not new to God. Let us, therefore, ask the almighty Father, through the name of his Son, our Saviour, that he grant us admission into a spiritual life of grace, the gift of eternal happiness, an ascension into the mansion of bliss, an increase of Catholic faith, and the destruction of heretical disbelief. He, surely, will hear us, now that we praise him who went in search of us when we were lost. He will assist us that are now his people, who abandoned us not when we were aliens. He will be with us now that we know him, for he was not absent from us even when we knew him not. He will not suffer us to be orphans now that we are devoted to him, for he vouchsafed to make us his children when we were his enemies. He will grant us what we ask, for he has promised to send us the Holy Ghost. Amen.

[1] Eph. ii. 4,6.
[2] St. John, xvii. 24.
[3] Ps. cix. 1.
[4] Heb. vi. 20.
[5] Rom. viii. 17.
[6] Ps. lxvii. 33, 34.
[7] Ibid xxiii.
[8] Apoc. x, 6.
[9] St. John, xiv. 2.
[10] Dan. vii. 13.
[11] St. John, xii. 32.
[12] Rom. viii. 24.

 

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.

 

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