logo with text

Keyword

Category

Octave of the Ascension

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hymn
(In Assumptione Dominiad magnum Vespertinum.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer

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

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

 

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sequence

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

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

Intrat tabernaculum
Moyses, et populum
Trahit ad spectaculum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen.

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

Prayer

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

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

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

O Rex 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.

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.

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.