Fr Jean Corbon OP reflects on the Ascension of Our Lord



An excerpt from: Wellspring of Worship

They have carefully sealed up the tomb again and filled up the fountain with sand; they continue to "look among the dead for someone who is alive" and they return to their narrow lives in which some things have to do with morality and others with cult, as in the case of the upright men and women of the old covenant. But in fact the Ascension is a decisive turning point. It does indeed mark the end of something that is not simply to be cast aside: the end of a relationship to Jesus that is still wholly external. Above all, however, it marks the beginning of an entirely new relationship of faith and of a new time: the liturgy of the last times.

We can only wonder at, and try to recapture for ourselves, the insight shown by the early Christians and by Christians down to the beginning of the second millennium, who placed the Christ of the ascension in the dome of their churches. When the faithful gathered to manifest and become the body of Christ, they saw their Lord both as present and as coming. He is the head and draws his body toward the Father while giving it life through his Spirit.

The ascension of the Lord was thus really the new space for the liturgy of the last times, and the iconography of the church built of stone was its transparent symbol. In his ascension, then, Christ did not at all disappear; on the contrary, he began to appear and to come. For this reason, the hymns we use in our churches sing of him as “the Sun of justice” that rises in the East. He who is the splendor of the Father and who once descended into the depths of our darkness is now exalted and fills all things with his light.

Our last times are located between that first ascension and the ascension that will carry him to the zenith of his glorious parousia. The Lord has not gone away to rest from his redemptive toil; his “work” (Jn 5:17) continues, but now at the Father's side, and because he is there he is now much closer to us, “very near to us,” in the work that is the liturgy of the last times. "He leads captives," namely, us, to the new world of his resurrection, and bestows his "gifts," his Spirit, on human beings (see Eph 4:7-10). His ascension is a progressive movement, "from beginning to beginning."

Jesus is, of course, at his Father's side. If, however, we reduce this "ascent" to a particular moment in our mortal history, we simply forget that beginning with the hour of his cross and resurrection Jesus and the human race are henceforth one. He became a son of man in order that we might become children of God. The ascension is progressive “until we all ... form the perfect Man fully mature with the fullness of Christ himself” (Eph 4:13).

The movement of the ascension will be complete only when all the members of his body have been drawn to the Father and brought to life by his Spirit. Is that not the meaning of the answer the angels gave to the disciples: “Why are you Galileans standing here looking into the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will come back in the same way as you have seen him go to heaven” (Acts 1:11). The ascension does not show us in advance the setting of the final parousia; it is rather the activation of the paschal energy of Christ who “fills all things” (Eph 4: 1 0). It is the ever-new "moment" of his coming.


Wellspring of Worship is available from Ignatius Press ... certainly a book worth the purchase.


Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen

 

Ascension of the Lord



“He presented himself alive to them by many proofs after he had suffered, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God...” (Acts of the Apostles 1:3.)

In commenting on these verses from today’s First Reading, Saint John Chrysostom writes:

“Why did he not appear to everyone, but only to the apostles? Because he would have seemed a mere apparition to most people, since they did not understand the secret of the mystery. For if even the disciples themselves were at first incredulous and troubled and needed the evidence of actual touch with the hand and of his eating with them, what would have happened to most people? For this reason, it is through the miracles done by the apostles that he renders the evidence of his resurrection unequivocal, so that not only the people of those times, but also all people thereafter, should be certain of the fact that he has risen. For the certainty of the former came from seeing the miracles, while that of everyone else was to be rooted in faith. For this reason, our discussion of the apostles also proceeds from here. For if he did not rise again but remains dead, how did the apostles perform miracles in his name? “They did not perform miracles,” some will say. How then was our religion authorized? For certainly they will not disagree with this and argue against what is obvious. Therefore, when they say that no miracles took place, they embarrass themselves more than anyone else. For this would be the greatest miracle of all, if without any miracles the whole world came running to be taken in the nets of twelve poor and illiterate men. For the fishermen prevailed not by wealth of money, nor by cunning of words, nor by any thing else of this kind. Therefore, the unbelievers, though unwilling, will agree that a divine power was present in these men, since no human strength could ever accomplish such great deeds. For this reason then he remained for forty days after the resurrection, giving evidence in this length of time of their seeing him in his own proper person, lest they believe what they saw was a phantom. Indeed, he was not content even with this but added also the evidence of eating at the table. This Luke reveals when he says, “while gathered with them.” The apostles themselves also always took this as proof of the resurrection, as when they say, “we who ate and drank with him.”” (Catena on the Acts of the Apostles, 1.)




Collect
Gladden us with holy joys, almighty God,
and make us rejoice with devout thanksgiving,
for the Ascension of Christ Your Son
is our exaltation,
and, where the Head has gone before in glory,
the Body is called to follow in hope.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.



Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen

 






No one has ever ascended into heaven except the One who descended from heaven



(Bishop and Great Western Father of the Church)

An excerpt from his Sermon on the Lord’s Ascension

SOLEMNITY: Ascension of the Lord

Today our Lord Jesus Christ ascended into heaven; let our hearts ascend with him. Listen to the words of the Apostle: If you have risen with Christ, set your hearts on the things that are above where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God; seek the things that are above, not the things that are on earth. For just as he remained with us even after his ascension, so we too are already in heaven with him, even though what is promised us has not yet been fulfilled in our bodies.

Christ is now exalted above the heavens, but he still suffers on earth all the pain that we, the members of his body, have to bear. He showed this when he cried out from above: Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? and when he said: I was hungry and you gave me food.

Why do we on earth not strive to find rest with him in heaven even now, through the faith, hope and love that unites us to him? While in heaven he is also with us; and we while on earth are with him. He is here with us by his divinity, his power and his love. We cannot be in heaven, as he is on earth, by divinity, but in him, we can be there by love.

He did not leave heaven when he came down to us; nor did he withdraw from us when he went up again into heaven. The fact that he was in heaven even while he was on earth is borne out by his own statement: No one has ever ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man, who is in heaven.

These words are explained by our oneness with Christ, for he is our head and we are his body. No one ascended into heaven except Christ because we also are Christ: he is the Son of Man by his union with us, and we by our union with him are the sons of God. So the Apostle says: Just as the human body, which has many members, is a unity, because all the different members make one body, so is it also with Christ. He too has many members, but one body.

Out of compassion for us he descended from heaven, and although he ascended alone, we also ascend, because we are in him by grace. Thus, no one but Christ descended and no one but Christ ascended; not because there is no distinction between the head and the body, but because the body as a unity cannot be separated from the head.

Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen

 






Wednesday of the Sixth Week of Easter



“... so that people might seek God, even perhaps grope for him and find him, though indeed he is not far from any one of us.” (Acts 17:27.)

Origen of Alexandria (part 2 of Pope Benedict’s reflections on Origen) comments on this verse from the Reading proclaimed at Mass today.:

“You are near, Lord, and all your commandments are truth.” God says elsewhere, “I am a God who is near and not a God who is far away, says the Lord.” For the power of God is everywhere according to the word of creation and providence. Knowing this, Paul, addressing the Greeks as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, says, “We do not seek God far from us, for in him we live and move and are,” and “the Spirit of the Lord has filled the earth.” He is thus, for his part, close, but if we ourselves make no effort, though he be close, to draw near to him, we will not enjoy his nearness. For this reason, sinners are far from God: “Behold, those who distance themselves from you perish.” But the just ones strive to approach God, for he is not present to them just as a creator, but he even shares himself with them: “And Moses alone draws near to God, but the rest do not draw near.” According to the degree of will and perfection, the one who approaches God is that one about whom Paul says, “The one joined to the Lord is one spirit.” (Palestinian Catena on Psalm 118)



Collect
Grant, we pray, O Lord,
that, as we celebrate in mystery
the solemnities of your Son’s Resurrection,
so, too, we may be worthy
to rejoice at his coming with all the Saints.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the
unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.


Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen


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The days between the Resurrection and the Ascension of the Lord



(Bishop of Rome and Father of the Church)

An excerpt from his Sermon on the Ascension, 1.

Wednesday of the Sixth Week of Easter

Beloved, the days which passed between the Lord’s resurrection and his ascension were by no means uneventful; during them great sacramental mysteries were confirmed, great truths revealed. In those days the fear of death with all its horrors was taken away, and the immortality of both body and soul affirmed. It was then that the Lord breathed on all his apostles and filled them with the Holy Spirit; and after giving the keys of the kingdom to blessed Peter, whom he had chosen and set above all the others, he entrusted him with the care of his flock.

During these days the Lord joined two of his disciples as their companion on the road, and by chiding them for their timidity and hesitant fears he swept away all the clouds of our uncertainty. Their lukewarm hearts were fired by the light of faith and began to burn within them as the Lord opened up the Scriptures. And as they shared their meal with him, their eyes were opened in the breaking of bread, opened far more happily to the sight of their own glorified humanity than were the eyes of our first parents to the shame of their sin.

Throughout the whole period between the resurrection and ascension, God’s providence was at work to instill this one lesson into the hearts of the disciples, to set this one truth before their eyes, that our Lord Jesus Christ, who was truly born, truly suffered and truly died, should be recognized as truly risen from the dead. The blessed apostles together with all the others had been intimidated by the catastrophe of the cross, and their faith in the resurrection had been uncertain; but now they were so strengthened by the evident truth that when their Lord ascended into heaven, far from feeling any sadness, they were filled with great joy.

Indeed that blessed company had a great and inexpressible cause for joy when it saw man’s nature rising above the dignity of the whole heavenly creation, above the ranks of angels, above the exalted status of archangels. Nor would there be any limit to its upward course until humanity was admitted to a seat at the right hand of the eternal Father, to be enthroned at last in the glory of him to whose nature it was wedded in the person of the Son.

Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen

 





Tuesday of the Sixth Week of Easter



“About midnight, while Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God as the prisoners listened...” (Acts of the Apostles 16:25.)

In commenting on these verses from today’s First Reading, Saint John Chrysostom writes:

“Who is equal to these souls? After being whipped they received numerous blows and underwent insults and extreme dangers. While fastened in stocks in the innermost cell, they stayed awake not wanting to fall asleep. Do you see how great the affliction of the righteous is? We sleep in soft beds without any fear throughout the night. Maybe they stayed awake because they were in this state. The tyrant sleep did not catch them, pain did not bend them, fear did not make them dispirited, but these things spurred them on even more.” (Catena on the Acts of the Apostles, 16.)




Collect
Grant, almighty and merciful God,
that we in truth receive a share
in the Resurrection of Christ your Son.
Who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.



Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen

 






Christ is the bond of unity



Bishop and Father of the Church

An excerpt from his Commentary on the Gospel of John, Book 11.

Tuesday of the Sixth Week of Easter

All who receive the sacred flesh of Christ are united with him as members of his body. This is the teaching of Saint Paul when he speaks of the mystery of our religion that was hidden from former generations, but has now been revealed to the holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; namely, that the Gentiles are joint-heirs with the Jews, that they are members of the same body, and that they have a share in the promise made by God in Christ Jesus.

If, in Christ, all of us, both ourselves and he who is within us by his own flesh, are members of the same body, is it not clear that we are one, both with one another and with Christ? He is the bond that unites us, because he is at once both God and man.

With regard to our unity in the Spirit, we may say, following the same line of thought, that all of us who have received one and the same Spirit, the Holy Spirit, are united intimately, both with one another and with God. Taken separately, we are many, and Christ sends the Spirit, who is both the Father’s Spirit and his own, to dwell in each of us. Yet that Spirit, being one and indivisible, gathers together those who are distinct from each other as individuals, and causes them all to be seen as a unity in himself. Just as Christ’s sacred flesh has power to make those in whom it is present into one body, so the one, indivisible Spirit of God, dwelling in all, causes all to become one in spirit.

Therefore, Saint Paul appeals to us to bear with one another charitably, and to spare no effort in securing, by the bonds of peace, the unity that comes from the Spirit. There is but one body and one Spirit, just as there is but one hope held out to us by God’s call. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and works through all, and is in all. If the one Spirit dwells in us, the one God and Father of all will be in us, and he, through his Son, will gather together into unity with one another and with himself all who share in the Spirit.

There is also another way of showing that we are made one by sharing in the Holy Spirit. If we have given up our worldly way of life and submitted once for all to the laws of the Spirit, it must surely be obvious to everyone that by repudiating, in a sense, our own life, and taking on the supernatural likeness of the Holy Spirit, who is united to us, our nature is transformed so that we are no longer merely men, but also sons of God, spiritual men, by reason of the share we have received in the divine nature. We are all one, therefore, in the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. We are one in mind and holiness, we are one through our communion in the sacred flesh of Christ, and through our sharing in the one Holy Spirit.


Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen

 





Monday of the Sixth Week of Easter



“One of them, a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth, from the city of Thyatira, a worshiper of God, listened, and the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what Paul was saying.” (Acts of the Apostles 16:14.)

In commenting on these verses from today’s First Reading, Saint John Chrysostom writes:

“Therefore we need God, who can open the heart. (God, however, opens hearts that are willing. For there are also hearts that are crippled, incapable of seeing.) “To give heed to what was said by Paul.” The opening, then, was God’s work, the “give heed,” hers. Therefore it was both God’s doing and Paul’s. “And when she was baptized,” it says, “she sought us, saying, ‘If you have judged me’” Look, as soon as she is baptized, she receives the apostles with an entreaty more earnest than Abraham’s. And she mentions no other proof but that by which she was saved. She did not say, “if you have judged me a great woman” or “if you have judged me a devout woman.” What does she say? “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord”—if faithful to the Lord, all the more so to you, unless you dispute it. And she did not say “stay with me” but “come to my house and stay,” thus showing the great eagerness with which she was doing this. Truly a faithful woman!” (Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles, 35.)




Collect
Grant, O merciful God,
that we may experience at all times
the fruit produced by the paschal observances.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.



Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen

 






The Holy Spirit renews us in baptism



Desert Father

An excerpt from his treatise On the Trinity, Book 2

Monday of the Sixth Week of Easter

The Holy Spirit renews us in baptism through his godhead, which he shares with the Father and the Son. Finding us in a state of deformity, the Spirit restores our original beauty and fills us with his grace, leaving no room for anything unworthy of our love. The Spirit frees us from sin and death, and changes us from the earthly men we were, men of dust and ashes, into spiritual men, sharers in the divine glory, sons and heirs of God the Father who bear a likeness to the Son and are his co-heirs and brothers, destined to reign with him and to share his glory. In place of earth the Spirit reopens heaven to us and gladly admits us into paradise, giving us even now greater honor than the angels, and by the holy waters of baptism extinguishing the unquenchable fires of hell.

We men are conceived twice: to the human body we owe our first conception, to the divine Spirit, our second. John says: To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God. These were born not by human generation, not by the desire of the flesh, not by the will of man, but of God. All who believed in Christ, he says, received power to become children of God, that is, of the Holy Spirit, and to gain kinship with God. To show that their parent was God the Holy Spirit, he adds these words of Christ: I give you this solemn warning, that without being born of water and the Spirit, no one can enter the kingdom of God.

Visibly, through the ministry of priests, the font gives symbolic birth to our visible bodies. Invisibly, through the ministry of angels, the Spirit of God, whom even the mind’s eye cannot see, baptizes into himself both our souls and bodies, giving them a new birth.

Speaking quite literally, and also in harmony with the words of water and the Spirit, John the Baptist says of Christ: He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Since we are only vessels of clay, we must first be cleansed in water and then hardened by spiritual fire—for God is a consuming fire. We need the Holy Spirit to perfect and renew us, for spiritual fire can cleanse us, and spiritual water can recast us as in a furnace and make us into new men.

Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen

 

 

Sixth Sunday of Easter



““If you love me, you will keep My commandments...” (John 14:15.)

Saint Cyril of Alexandria comments on this verse from the Gospel proclaimed at Mass today:

“Having determined and expressly declared that the enjoyment of the heavenly blessings (supplied, that is, through him by the Father) is both due to those who love him and in very truth shall be theirs, he immediately goes on to describe the power of love. He provides excellent and irreproachable instruction to us for our profit with the intent that we should devote ourselves to its pursuit. For even if a person says that he loves God, he will not immediately merit credit for having true love of God, since the power of virtue does not stand on bare speech alone, nor piety on naked words. Rather, it is distinguished by performance of good deeds and an obedient disposition. Keeping the divine commandments is the best way to give living expression to our love toward God. It presents the picture of a life lived in all its fullness and truth. It is not a life sketched out in mere sounds that flow from the tongue. It gleams instead with the altogether radiant and brilliant colors that paint a portrait of good works.” (Commentary on Gospel of John, 9.)



Collect
Grant, almighty God,
that we may celebrate with heartfelt devotion
these days of joy,
which we keep in honor of the risen Lord,
and that what we relive in remembrance
we may always hold to in what we do.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.



Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen


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