Feast of the Ascension
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INSTRUCTION ON THE FESTIVAL OF THE ASCENSION OF OUR LORD
Taken from Fr. Leonard Goffine's Sundays and Feast days Throughout the Ecclesiastical Year  1886

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AT the Introit the Church sings the words which were spoken by the angels to the apostles and disciples, after the Ascension of our Lord: Ye men of Galilee, why wonder you, looking up to heaven? allel.: He shall so come as you have seen him going up into heaven. Allel., allel., allel. (Acts i. II.) Oh, clap your hands, all ye nations; shout unto God with the voice of joy. (Ps. xlvi. 2.) Glory be to the Father, &c.

PRAYER OF THE CHURCH. Grant, we beseech Thee, O Almighty God, that we who believe Thy only-begotten Son, our Redeemer, to have this day ascended into the heavens , may ourselves also in mind dwell amid heavenly things. Through the same.

LESSON. (Acts i. i — ii.) 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 prom- ise 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 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 to me in Jerusalem and in all Judea, 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 up from you into heaven, shall so come, as you have seen him going into heaven.

Quote:EXPLANATION. This gospel of St. Luke addressed to Theophilus, a Christian of note in Antioch, contains an account of the life, sufferings, and death of Jesus up to the time of His ascension into heaven. The Evangelist continues his account in the Acts of the apostles, in which he describes in simple words that which Jesus did during the forty days following His Resurrection, and the manner in which He ascended into heaven in the presence of His apostles. Rejoice that Christ today has entered the glory gained by His sufferings and death, and pray: I rejoice, O King of heaven and earth, in the glory Thou hast this day attained in heaven. Sing to God, ye kingdoms of the earth: sing ye to the Lord: sing ye to God, who mounteth above the heaven of heavens to the east. Give ye glory to God for Israel, his magnificence and his power is in the clouds. God is wonderful in his saints, the God of Israel is he who will give power and strength to his people, blessed be God. (Ps .lxvii. 33—36.)

GOSPEL. (Mark. xvi. 14 — 20.) 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 their 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 forth preached everywhere, the Lord working withal, and confirming the word with signs that followed.


Why did Christ say to His apostles: Go ye into the whole world and preach the gospel to all creatures?

To show that no one is to assume the office of preaching, but must look for his mission from the lawful pastors of the Church. And when Christ sends His apostles into the whole world, to all nations without exception, He shows His willingness to save all men. If the designs of God are not fullfilled, the blame is not to be attributed to God, but to man, who either does not accept the doctrine of the gospel, or accepting, does not live in accordance with it, or else renders himself by his obduracy in vice, unworthy of the gospel.


Is faith without good works sufficient for salvation?

No, faith that is not active in love, not fruitful in good works, and therefore not meritorious, {Gal. v. 6.)is not sufficient for salvation. "Such faith," says St. Anselm, "is not the faith of a Christian, but the faith of the devil." Only he who truly believes in Christ and His doctrine, and lives in accordance with it, will be saved.


Is ours then the true faith since all the faithful do not work miracles, as Christ has predicted?

St. Gregory very beautifully replies to this question: "Because the Redeemer said that true faith would be accompanied by miracles, you must not think that you have not the faith, because these signs do not follow; these miracles had to be wrought in the beginning of the Church, because faith in her had to be increased by these visible signs of divine power." And even now when such signs are necessary for the propagation of the faith, and victory over unbelief, God gives His faithful power to work them.


Are miracles wrought, now in the Catholic Church?

Yes, for there have been at all times saints in the Church, who, as seen from their lives, have wrought miracles, on account of their faith, which even the heretics cannot deny; for instance St. Francis Xavier, who in the sight of the heathens, raised several dead persons to life. In a spiritual manner all pious Catholics still work such miracles; for, as St. Chrysostom says, "they expel devils when they banish sin, which is worse than the devil; they speak new tongues when they converse no longer on vain and sinful things, but on those which are spiritual and heavenly." "They take up serpents," says St. Gregory, "when by zealous exhortations they lift others from the shame of vice, without being themselves poisoned; they drink deadly things without being hurt by them, when they hear improper conversation without being corrupted or led to evil; they lay their hands upon the sick and heal them, when they teach the ignorant, strengthen by their good example those who are wavering in virtue, keep the sinner from evil, and similar things." Strive to do this upon all occasions, O Christian, for God willingly gives you His grace and you will thus be of more use to yourself and others, and honor God more than by working the greatest miracles.


Where and how did Christ ascend into heaven?

From Mount Olivet where His sufferings began, by which we learn, that where our crosses and afflictions begin which we endure with patience and resignation, there begins our reward. Christ ascended into heaven by His own power, because He is God, and now in His glorified humanity He sits at the right hand of His Father, as our continual Mediator.


In whose presence did Christ ascend into heaven?

In the presence of His apostles, and many of His disciples, whom He had previously blessed, (Luke xxiv. 51.) and who, as St. Leo says, derived consoling joy from His ascension. Rejoice, also, O Christian soul, for Christ has today opened heaven for you, and you may enter it, if you believe in Christ, and live in accordance with that faith. St. Augustine says: "Let us ascend in spirit with Christ, that when His day comes, we may follow with our body. Yet you must know, beloved brethren, that not pride, nor avarice, nor impurity, nor any other vice ascends with Christ; for with the teacher of humility pride ascends not, nor with the author of goodness, malice, nor with the Son of the Virgin, impurity. Let us then ascend with Him by trampling upon our vices and evil inclinations, thus building a ladder by which we can ascend; for we make a ladder of our sins to heaven when we tread them down in combatting them."

ASPIRATION. O King of glory! O powerful Lord! who hast this day ascended victoriously, above all heaven, leave us not as poor orphans, but send us, from the Father, the Spirit of truth whom Thou hast promised. Alleluia.


Why is the paschal candle extinguished after the Gospel on this day?

To signify that Christ, of whom the candle is a figure, has gone from His disciples.


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INSTRUCTION ON MIRACLES

And these signs shall follow them that believe. (Mark xvi. 17.)


What is a miracle?

A miracle, as defined by St. Thomas of Aquinas, is anything beyond the ordinary, fixed state of things that is done through God. Thus when the sun stands still in his course, when thousands are fed with five loaves and two small fishes, when by a word or simple touch the dead are raised to life, the blind see, and the deaf hear, these are things contrary to nature, and are miracles which can only be performed by God or those persons to whom God has given the power.

That God can work miracles, cannot be denied. God has made the laws of nature, and at any time it pleases Him, He can suddenly suspend them, and that God has at times done so, we have more solid and undeniable proofs than we have for the most renowned and best authenticated facts of history, far •more witnesses testify to miracles, the whole world has believed them, and been converted by them; more than eleven millions of martyrs have died to confirm and maintain their truth; no one gives up his life for lies and deceptions; the Jews and pagans have admitted them, but ascribed them to witchcraft and the power of demons rather than to God; by this they proved and acknowledged the truth of miracles, because in order to deny them, they were driven to false and absurd explanations of them.


Can men work miracles?

No; only God works miracles through man to whom He gives the 'power. The history of the Christian Church in all ages bears testimony, that men have wrought miracles in the name of Jesus, as, for example, the apostles and the saints.


Can miracles be worked by the relics of saints, pictures, &c?

The Church, in the Council of Trent, solemnly declares, that we are never to believe that there is in any picture or relic any hidden power by which a miracle can be worked, and that we are not to honor or ask any such thing of them. Therefore no miracle can ever be worked by them, but God can perform miracles through them, and He has done so, as the holy Scriptures and the history of the Church of Christ both prove. But when through certain pictures (usually called miraculous pictures) miracles do take place, that no deception may occur, the Church commands that such a picture shall not be exposed for the veneration of the faithful, until the truth of the miracles performed is by a rigorous examination established beyond doubt; she then causes such pictures to be respectfully preserved as monuments of the goodness and omnipotence of God.


Why are there not so many miracles in our times as there were in the first days of the Church?

Because the Church is no longer in need of such extraordinary testimony to the truth of her teachings. Thus St. Augustine writes: "He who in the face of the conversion of the world to Christianity demands miracles, and strives to doubt those which have been wrought in favor of this most wonderful change, is himself an astonishing miracle of irrationality and stupidity;" and St. Chrysostom says: "The question is sometimes asked: How happens it there are not so many miracles now-a-days? The answer is, because the knowledge of Christ is propagated all over the earth, and the Church is like a tree which, having once taken deep root and grown to a certain height, no longer needs to be carefully watered and supported."
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
Reply
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The Ascension of Our Lord
Taken from The Liturgical Year by Dom Prosper Gueranger (1841-1875)

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The sun of the fortieth day has risen in all his splendor. The earth, which shook with gladness at the Birth of our Emmanuel, 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. 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 down 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. O 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 honored 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 not have rived 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. 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, and they are to be 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. 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. 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 armor, and the armor 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. But what is this armor? Jesus explains it to them. He reminds them of the Father’s promise, that promise, says he, which he have heard by my mouth: for John, indeed, baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.

But the hour of separation is Come. Jesus rise: 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 invincible 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 honoring 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 were 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? 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 he 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. On their left are the Garden and 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, they are close to Bethania, that favored 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?

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. 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 Savior’s revealing the secret. What ought to be uppermost in the mind of the Disciples is the conversion of the pagan world—the establishing 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.

According to a tradition, which has been handed down from the earliest ages of Christianity, it is mid-day—the same hour that he had been 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. Their eyes follow him, until a cloud comes and receives him out of their sight.

Yes, Jesus is gone! The earth has lost her Emmanuel!—For four thousand years he had been expected: the Patriarchs and Prophets had desired his coming with all the fervor 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 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—his 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 forever—but the hour is come; he has left us; yes, our dearest Jesus is gone! O 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! He has ascended, a Savior; he is to return, as 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 Savior, 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: and to carry out this merciful design he has 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. 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 endeavor to describe its mystery and magnificence: we would only observe, for the present, that this Solemnity is the completion of the Mystery of our Redemption; that it is one of those which were instituted by the Apostles; and finally, that is has impressed a character of sadness on the Thursday of each week—the day already so highly honored 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 honor the very least of our Savior’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! Nowadays, 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 today. 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 Savior 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 brighter, 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.

The Introit is the solemn announcement of today’s mystery. It is formed of the Angel’s 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.
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. Omnes gentes plaudite manibus: jubilate Deo in voce exsultationis. ℣. Gloria Patri. Viri Galilæi.
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 thine Only Begotten Son, our Redeemer, ascended this day into heaven, may also dwell there in desire. Through the same, &c.


Epistle
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 shewed 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 Judea, 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 up from you into heaven, shall so come, as you have seen him going into heaven.
Quote: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 he 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 grand 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.
Alleluia, alleluia.

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

Alleluia.
Alleluia.

℣. Dominus in Sina in sancto, ascendens in altum, captivam duxit captivatem. Alleluia.
℣. The Lord on Sina, in his holy place, ascending on high, hath led captivity captive. Alleluia.


Gospel
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 their 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 forth preached everywhere: the Lord working withal, and confirming the word with signs that followed.

Quote:The Deacon having sung these words, an Acolyte ascends the Ambo 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! at least, 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, that reunited to our bodies, we shall be taken up in the clouds to meet Christ, and be with our Lord for ever! 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; and we are hastening through it to rejoin our Divine Leader. In Him are our life and 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 is 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 be both 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 gratia agere: Domine sancte, Pater omnipotens, æterne Deus, per Christum Dominum nostrum; qui post resurrectionem suam omnibus discipulis suis manifestus apparuit, et ipsis cernentibus 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 visibilius mysteriis sumenda percepimus, invisibili consequamur effectu. Per Domino. 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.


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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 mid-day on the Ascension; and spend 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 labored in its fulfillment. It was nigh to its fulfillment, when men laid their sacrilegious hands upon him, and nailed him to a Cross. It was mid-day, 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 re-appeared. 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!

Quote:But art not thou, 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 earnest 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 Spouse Gertrude: “O Love, 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 mid-day. My heart kindles with rapture at thought of thy tranquil rest at Noon! O 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!” (Exercitia St Gertrudis, Die V)


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. 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.

ANT. And when they beheld him going up to heaven, they said: Alleluia.

Psalm: Confiteor.

ANT. Lifting up his hands, he blessed them, and was carried up to heaven, alleluia.

Psalm: Beatus vir

ANT. Praise ye the King of kings, and sing a hymn to God, alleluia.

Psalm: Laudate, pueri.

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


PSALM 116

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.)

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 17th century,
and in this changed form we now have it.

HYMN

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 be mindful of his own and his Father’s promise, and not delay to console his Spouse 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 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 thine 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

When thou, O Christ! earnest to Mount Olivet, there to fulfill 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 re-ascend. 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 gave 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 Man-God, 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, we 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! (John 14:2)

Confiding, Jesus! in this promise; resolved to follow thee in all the mysteries achieved by thee for our sakes — 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, Divine Shepherd, whilst we are 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 re-animates 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 earnest 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 which 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

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.
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
Reply
#3
The Angelus  - May 1981

Our Lord's Ascension
In this sermon for Ascension Thursday, St. Leo the Great, Pope and Doctor, shows us that by Our Lord's Ascension, 
our joy is made full, and our faith and hope more wondrous.

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THE MYSTERY of our salvation, Beloved, that which the Creator of all things deigned to accomplish at the price of His Own Blood, was, from the day of His corporal birth till the last moment of His Passion, steadfastly accomplished along a divinely decreed path of humiliation. And though while in the form of a servant there shone forth many signs of His Divinity, yet everything He did throughout this time tended to confirm the truth of the humanity He had put on.

But after His Passion, and when He had destroyed the bonds of death, which had lost its power encountering Him in Whom there was no sin, infirmity changed to Might, mortality to Immortality, humiliation to Glory. This the Lord Jesus made clear to the eyes of many, by frequent and clear proofs, until He ended in heaven itself the triumph of the victory He had won over death. And as at Easter time the Resurrection of the Lord was then the cause of our joyful celebration, so His Ascension into heaven is the reason of this day's rejoicing, recalling to mind and fittingly honoring that day on which our poor lowly nature was in the Person of Christ raised above all the hosts of heaven, above the ranks of all the angels, above the sublimity of all the Powers, to the throne of God the Father.

In this order of divine events we are rooted and founded, so that when That was withdrawn from men's sight Which was rightly felt of Itself to claim our reverence, God's grace became yet more wonderful, and faith did not fail, and hope did not falter, and love did not grow cold. For this is the power of worthy souls, this is the glory of those who truly believe, that they believe without faltering what is unseen by the eyes of the body, and there fasten their desires where sight cannot follow.

Where could this devotion arise in our hearts, or how should a man be justified by faith, if our salvation was rooted and founded in things we see with our eyes? It was because of this the Lord said to the man who seemed to doubt the Resurrection of Christ until by sight and touch he had examined the proofs of the Passion in His Flesh; Because thou hast seen me, He says, thou hast believed; but blessed are they that have not seen, and have believed (Jn. xx. 29).

II.. That we may therefore, Dearly Beloved, be made ready for this blessedness, Our Lord Jesus Christ, after He had disposed in order all that related to the preaching of the Gospel and to the mysteries of the New Testament, was, in the presence of His disciples, and on the fortieth day after His Resurrection, raised up to heaven. He withdrew for a time His Bodily Presence, for He is to abide at the right hand of the Father, until the times which have been divinely decreed for the multiplication of the children of the Church are accomplished, and then in the same Body in Which He ascended He will come again to judge the living and the dead. And so what was visible in Christ is now veiled in mystery; and that faith might be more perfect and more steadfast, vision was succeeded by revealed truth, whose authority the hearts of the faithful, illumined by light from above, would now begin to follow.


III. This then is the Faith which, enlarged by the Lord's Ascension, and made firm by the gifts of the Holy Ghost, neither bonds nor prison, neither exile nor hunger nor fire, neither the fangs of wild beasts nor the tortures devised by the cruelty of persecutors, have overcome. For this Faith men everywhere throughout the world have fought steadfastly even to the shedding of their blood; not alone men, but women also, and beardless boys, and even tender maids. This Faith has cast out demons, banished sickness, raised the dead.

And even the Blessed Apostles, who had been encouraged by so many miracles, and taught by so many discourses, were yet terrified at the cruelty of the Lord's Passion, and had only with much hesitation accepted the reality of His Resurrection, were so greatly uplifted by the Lord's Ascension that whatever before had made them fear now turned their hearts toward joy. For they had turned the whole gaze of their soul upwards to the Divinity of Him Who sits at the Father's right hand. And they were no longer held by the fact of His Bodily Presence from directing their mind's eye towards that Being Who, descending on earth did not leave the Father, and ascending to heaven had not left His Disciples.


IV. It was then, Dearly Beloved, the Son of man, the Son of God, became known in a more perfect, a holier, manner: when He betook Himself to the majestic glory of the Father, and in an ineffable way began to be more present to us in His Divinity, as His humanity became more remote to us. Then a more instructed faith began by way of the soul to draw nigh to that Son Who was equal with the Father, without need to touch and feel the bodily substance in Christ, in which He is less than the Father (Jn. xiv. 28). For though the nature of His glorified Body remains, the faith of the believing began to be called whither the Only-Begotten Who is equal to the Father might be touched and felt, not by our bodily hand, but by the spiritual understanding.

It was because of this the Lord said to Mary Magdalene when she, representing the Church, drew near to touch Him: Do not touch me, for I am not yet ascended to my Father (Jn. xx. 17); that is, 'I do not wish you to approach me in a bodily manner, nor that you should know me by the feel of My Flesh; I would have you wait for what is higher; I am preparing for thee what is greater. When I have ascended to My Father then you shall touch me more perfectly and more truly, for you shall know what you touch not, and believe what you do not see.' And as the Disciples looked upwards and with rapt gaze followed the Lord as He ascended to heaven, two angels in shining white garments stood by them, and said to them: Ye men of Galilee, why stand you looking up to heaven? This Jesus who is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come, as you have seen him going into heaven (Acts i. II). 

By these words all the children of the Church were taught that they are to believe that Jesus will be seen coming again in that same body in which He ascended, and that likewise we cannot doubt that He to Whom from His Birth angels had ministered, to Him all things are subject. For as an angel announced to the Blessed Virgin that Christ would be conceived of the Holy Ghost, so also was it the voice of the heavenly choir that proclaimed Him to the shepherds New-Born of the Virgin. And as the first testimonies that told men He had risen from the dead were those of angels from on high, so likewise was it foretold by the ministry of angels that He would come again in the Flesh to judge the world; so that we may know what great powers shall stand about Him when He shall come to judge to Whom so many ministered when He was Himself being judged.

V. Let us then exult, Beloved, with joy of soul, and rejoicing with fitting praise in God's presence, lift up the now free eyes of the soul to that place where Christ abides. Let not earthly things hold here the souls that are called above; let not perishable things fill the hearts that are chosen for eternal things. Let no false allurements hold back those who walk the way of truth. And so should believing souls pass amid these temporal things as knowing they but journey through this world's valley, in which though certain things beguile us we must not feebly yield, but press manfully on our way.

To this the most blessed Apostle Peter exhorts us, and by that love for feeding the sheep of Christ which he received by his own threefold confession of love for the Lord he cries, beseeching us: Dearly Beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, to refrain yourselves from carnal desires which war against the soul (I Pet. ii. II). And for whom unless the devil do carnal desires make war; who when souls are striving towards higher things delights to bind them fast to the pleasures of perishable things, and lead them away from those seats from which he himself has fallen?

Against such wiles each believing soul must judiciously stand guard, that he may defeat the enemy in whatever he tries. And there is nothing more efficacious against the wiles of the devil, dearly beloved, than the kindness of forgiveness and bountifulness in charity, by means of which sin is either avoided or overcome. But this high degree of virtue is not reached until that which is its enemy is rooted out. For what is more inimical to mercy, and to the works of charity, than greed, from whose roots arise the fruits of all evil? And unless this be cut at the source it must follow that the thorns and thistles of wickedness will spring up in the field of that heart where this plant of evil flourishes rather than any plant of true virtue.

Let us then, Most dearly Beloved, stand firm against this so destructive evil, and follow after charity, without which no virtue can flourish; so that we may ascend by that way of love to Christ by which He has come down to us, to Whom with the Father and the Holy Ghost be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.


Almighty God, grant, we pray, that we, who believe that Thy only-begotten Son, our Redeemer, rose this day to heaven, may keep our minds fixed on heavenly things.

– Collect for Ascension Thursday
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
Reply
#4
The Feast of the Ascension

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"And the Lord Jesus was taken up into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God."--Mark xvi, 19.

The various feasts which we, as children of the Church, are called upon to celebrate throughout the year, invite us to consider, with special attention, and, as it were, to behold in spirit the mysteries of which that tender Mother makes mention herself, in so solemn a manner to us all.

This is particularly so on the festival of today, which commemorates the Ascension of Christ into heaven. We gaze with the disciples into the cloudless sky as if we fain would pierce the secrets of the celestial realm beyond, and witness the entrance of Christ therein. Then the thought arises within us: "O happy Apostles! chosen to behold the Ascension of the Lord; would that we could know the feelings which filled your hearts when you saw Him surrounded by a luminous cloud, disappear from view."

Beloved in Christ Jesus, I will tell you: Unspeakable longing after heaven took possession of them when they beheld their beloved Master enter therein. The same longing should also fill our heart. O Mary, Queen of heaven, obtain for us that same longing which animated your immaculate heart, to follow your divine Son to the abode of eternal bliss. I speak in the most holy name of Jesus for the greater honor and glory of God.

As I have already said, the feelings of the disciples, as they stood gazing upon Jesus as he faded from their view, were concentrated in one ardent desire for heaven, to be and remain with him there forever. Yes; and so also would we have felt had we been present on Mount Olivet with Mary, the Apostles and disciples, when Christ raised Himself from the ground, blessed them, and, soaring aloft, was seen no more.

"Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye looking up to heaven?" was the question put to them by the Angels; and, my brethren, had I been present, I would have said: "O dear Angels, how can you ask? for, while the favored few, whom Christ selected to witness His wondrous ascension, did certainly congratulate Jesus upon entering His eternal home, they also sighed, from their very hearts, 'O that we, too, could leave this earth, to be and remain with our beloved Saviour in heaven.'"

This ardent desire is the more important because it is the fundamental condition without which we can not follow the admonition contained in the succeeding words spoken by the angelic messengers: "This Jesus, Who is taken up from you, so shall come again." He will exact a rigid account from every man as to whether he has fulfilled that end for which God called him into existence, redeemed him, and permitted him to belong to the kingdom of His Church.

Upon the eve of His Ascension, Christ declared that He would send His disciples to the confines of the earth; and that they might be better enabled to proclaim His word, He would prepare them with the strength of the Holy Ghost. For only those who combat and conquer, who work for and with Jesus, who complete the work on earth for which God created them, and remain faithful, receive a beauteous crown in heaven.

Besides the strength God the Holy Ghost bestows, that divine Spirit also implants in the heart another disposition--a longing to accomplish something for God. This is confirmed by numerous examples of heroic actions, performed by those who, devoting their lives to sanctity, listened to and acted upon the inspirations of that divine Spirit. What wonderful things have been accomplished, even according to the testimony of our own experience, at the price of innumerable sacrifices and hardships, from the impulse and through the strength of this ardent desire! This has also its perfect application in the great affair of salvation.

Whoever meditates as he should upon heaven, feels strong enough to labor, to struggle, and to suffer for it, in faithful perseverance, unto the end. And what should be more easy than for every faithful child of the Church to excite in his heart this longing desire? Consider how many and what powerful motives there are to increase it therein! Let us devote some moments to these considerations; and with the divine blessing, even as the words fall from my lips, this desire for heaven will arise and increase in our hearts.

Behold, in spirit, Christ ascending to heaven, and say, within yourselves, Dear Jesus, where are you going? O beautiful country! how I sigh after thee. Here is the land of our exile; there, our eternal home. Here are hunger and thirst; there, an excess of delight. Here, lamentation and wailing; there, the security of bliss. Here is poverty and nakedness; there, the glorious vesture of heaven, decorated with the diamonds of merit, acquired by our good works upon earth. Here we have no lasting dwelling; there, when the Christian enters upon the reward of a well-spent life, he can exclaim: "Heaven is mine; all is mine; I enter the dwelling which Jesus prepared for me, and ascend a royal throne, whereon I will be crowned with a radiant diadem forever."

Here there is a never-ceasing sound of wailing, as human hearts grow faint with the burden of sorrow; there, in heaven, the eternal Alleluia resounds, and never for one moment does the celestial music of angelic voices cease. Here is the labor; there, rest and quiet--the reward; and O what a reward! Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard; nor hath it ever entered into the heart of man to conceive what God hath prepared for those who love Him. Here we must endure mortification and persecution; there, we shall enjoy a peace which passeth all understanding.

Here we are subject to temptations; there, no thought of evil can come. Here it is constant struggle; there, is the triumph attained. Here the world, and those who are of the world, strive only for the possession of creatures; there, the sole desire of the blessed is to see and possess God Himself in His infinite perfection and beatitude. Here a shadow rests upon our brightest hours,-- the thought of the impending separation from our loved ones by death; there, neither sorrow nor death can enter; and the union among the blessed and with God will be eternal.

Blessed Egidius! when we think of these striking contrasts, we can not wonder that the very mention of heaven--"Paradise"--threw your soul into an ecstatic state, while your ardent desire after its joys raised your body from the ground as if your spirit longed to soar.

Yes, beautiful Heaven! the ardent desire of my heart, who will give me wings like a dove, to fly from this valley of tears, and rest on the mountain of bliss? But this necessitates labor, struggling, suffering. And what, beloved in Christ, will make this suffering light? what but this ardent desire of heaven!

See the laborer as he goes forth to his daily toil, willing to endure all, and leave himself no rest, for he knows that the more diligently he works, the greater will be his gain. And daily experience proves, that it is the same in every walk of life; yet how poor and trifling, how infinitely small, is the richest guerdon which the world can give compared to the reward which awaits us in heaven for every meritorious' work performed by us on earth. How worthless should the world's rewards appear when we think how soon they pass away! How infinitely great should we deem the ones which never, never end! How brave and determined the warrior who knows that, if he return from the conflict with the laurel wreath of victory, his fortune is assured! How willingly he risks that life, which is to him so precious, for the hope of a possible reward. How bravely, therefore, my dearest Christians, should not you be able to combat, having in view the hope of Heaven-- the crown of eternal victory!

Men have borne, with the greatest patience, the most painful operations, with a view to saving life or limb. Strive, therefore, to bear with patience the sorrows and trials of earth, to save your immortal souls. Oh, let us never forget the heaven which may be all our own! Let us think of it, not only while we celebrate this glorious festival, but long after it has passed away, that we may so live that, when we close our eyes to earthly things, we may, without delay, ascend to that bright and glorious home to dwell with Christ in Heaven for evermore. Amen.

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"They going forth preached every-where, and the Lord working withal, confirming the word with signs that followed."--Mark xvi, 20.

Jesus had entered into glory, and still the disciples remained spell-bound, gazing after Him with irrepressible yearning to follow Him to that heavenly home, whither He went to prepare a dwelling for the souls He had redeemed.

Suddenly, as the Evangelist St. Luke relates, there appeared to the Apostles two Angels clad in white robes of golden glory, who thus addressed them: "Ye men of Galilee, why stand you looking up to heaven? This Jesus, who is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come, as you have seen Him going into heaven." This is the explanation of the above: "As surely as you have witnessed the departure of your blessed Saviour, so surely will He come again. He will come not in His humiliation, but in the full splendor of His incomparable Majesty, to you, as well as to the whole world."

Jesus raised Himself on high and entered heaven as Conqueror over death and hell; and once again He will come, not as Reconciler, but as Judge. Can we endure the penetrating glance of His all-seeing eye; that eye which will, as it were, search into the very marrow of our souls? It depends very much upon ourselves. If we have during life been disposed as were the disciples on Mount Olivet on Ascension-day, there will be no terror for us in the coming of Christ at the end of the world.

O Mary, Queen of angels, to whom it was granted to be assumed body and soul into heaven, and to sit enthroned at the right hand of your divine Son, bless and protect us, that we may one day behold the bliss of heaven! I speak in the most holy name of Jesus, for the greater honor of God!

Deep in the human heart there lingers sweet hope of ascending at last to heaven. There is scarce a sinner, be he ever so abandoned, that does not cherish the hope that by some unlooked-for grace he will behold his glorified Saviour. It is true that sincere, even if tardy, repentance can win forgiveness for any crime, no matter how great; yet we must not expect to be called by wonderful ways; but, to insure to ourselves the eventual possession of that exquisite bliss, we must, during our whole lives, look up to heaven with affections similar to those of the disciples as they looked after Jesus when He soared aloft beyond the skies. It was, above all, the wish to enter heaven with Him which animated them when they, after He had disappeared from their view, stood spellbound, looking up as if they could still behold His beloved face. I have already touched upon this disposition of ardent desire, but after the address of the angels there were other affections which deeply moved their hearts.

First, they congratulated Jesus upon His entrance into glory. In proportion to the compassion with which His humiliation and bitter sufferings had inspired them, they now rejoiced; and repressing their grief at His departure, felicitated Him upon having ascended to heaven. They stood upon Mount Olivet, that spot so rich in sacred memories,--that spot where the agony of the Son of God forced blood from His pores. Their feet touched the ground once moistened by that precious blood; and with these thoughts welling up in their hearts, they might well exclaim: "According to the afflictions of my heart, consolations have rejoiced my soul."

The disciples rejoiced with Jesus, especially at the assurance He gave them: "I go to prepare for you a lasting dwelling," and now they perceived more clearly than ever the grand and majestic character of the happiness which had been conferred upon them, of beholding the incarnate Son of God,--that happiness after which Abraham and the prophets had so ardently longed,--yet which they were not permitted to enjoy, with the exception of Moses and Elias.

They now understood the favor which had been meted out to them, and blessed the Saviour that they had received from His lips the word of salvation; that they had walked by His side, and had had constant personal intercourse with Him. They thanked Him with the most intense fervor of heart for their call to the true faith, and for their election, according to the Saviour's promise, to proclaim the word of life to the very extremities of the earth, and to distribute to the children of men the treasures of the Redemption, by propagating the true Church to which had been bequeathed such fruitful means of salvation.

And it was not merely sensible affections of the heart which so deeply moved them; for they, at the same time, made firm resolutions, with the assistance of divine grace, to fulfill their calling faithfully, and to obey the precept which had been given them, to await at Jerusalem, in prayer, the coming of the Holy Ghost, the Paraclete. And this, my brethren, should be the disposition of our hearts upon this glorious day.

Let us exult and praise the Lord for His Majesty; for if we love Jesus more than ourselves, we should rejoice at His Ascension to such a kingdom of delight. What exultation must expand the heart of the Christian who really loves Him, as he recalls today the words of the psalm which prophetically describes the Ascension of Christ: "Be ye lifted up, O eternal gates, for the King of Glory approaches!" and behold in spirit the myriads of Angels coming from heaven to meet Him, entoning the Alleluia of victory before the Lord.

We should also imitate the Apostles and disciples in their gratitude; for if we reflect that we have been called to the true faith through no merit of our own, while the souls of millions who might have responded more fully to the grace of God, and availed themselves more frequently of the means provided by Him to help us on our heavenward way, are left in the darkness of error. What cause for thankfulness is the certainty that we are on the right path to salvation, and that if we really wish to attain it, we can do so through Jesus Christ our Lord. We should also thank God that we, as children of the true Church, may lead other souls thereto, and thus propagate His kingdom. There is no other way to heaven than that which Jesus trod, the way of struggle, labor, and toil,--of self-denial, mortification, and tears--no other way, in short, than the royal road of the holy cross.

But heaven is worth it all, and when well nigh fainting in the conflict, the Christian should think of the Saviour, Who, in His painful walk to Calvary, faltered and fell three times; and, taking courage, exclaim with St. Paul: "I can do all in Him who strengthens me." The same Holy Ghost, promised and sent by Christ to His Apostles and disciples; He has, according to St. John, promised to us also; and He will send Him if we, by zealous and fervent prayer, prepare our hearts for His reception. The Apostles and their companions at Jerusalem did so. And after that happy event they immediately ordained deacons for the service of the Church, that they might themselves have more time for prayer and union with God.

Let us, then, beloved in Christ, imitate their example, by an increase of zeal in prayer, as we celebrate this festive day. Let us, in spirit, place ourselves in their midst, and imagine the deep emotion with which we would have fallen at the feet of Christ and embraced them, had we been witnesses of this happy meeting between Him and His holy Mother, and faithful friends. With what ardor we would have implored Him to remember us before His Father in heaven, and promised to do His holy will in all things, that we might one day follow Him to the realms of everlasting bliss.

If we possess these affections, and fulfill the resolutions arising therefrom; if we think constantly of heaven, and live only for it, then most assuredly will we courageously combat those enemies who would fain deprive us of its celestial joys; and having borne the cross on earth, we shall wear an eternal crown above. Amen!
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
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#5
Fr. Hewko's Sermons on the Feast of the Ascension


May 14 2015 - in Canada




May 10, 2018 - in Kentucky




May 30, 2019 -  in Massachusetts




 May 21, 2020 - "Who Is This King of Glory?"

"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
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