EASTER SEASON


Week 6: Friday


“One night in a vision the Lord said to Paul, “Do not be afraid. Go on speaking, and do not be silent ...” (Acts 18:9.)

In commenting on these verses from today’s First Reading, Didymus the Blind writes:

“In Corinth, God appeared in a vision to the apostle and urged him not to be afraid to teach, and he made clear to him the reason why he should speak and not be silent, namely that, in that town, there were many that God knew would receive the proclamation of the gospel. For since it was natural that Paul, being human, was afraid of some attack against himself, seeing that then nearly everyone there was still pagan, God encourages and rouses the teacher to be brave by saying, “I am with you and will prevent anybody from attempting to harm you, so that nobody lays a hand on you.” (Catena on the Acts of the Apostles, 18.)


Collect
O God, who restore us to eternal life
in the Resurrection of Christ,
raise us up, we pray, to the author of our salvation,
who is seated at your right hand,
so that, when our Savior comes again in majesty,
those you have given new birth in Baptism
may be clothed with blessed immortality.
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. Amen.


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

 






Two kinds of life


(Bishop and Great Western Father of the Church)

An excerpt from a Treatise on John

Easter Week 6: Friday

The Church recognizes two kinds of life as having been commended to her by God. One is a life of faith, the other a life of vision; one is a life passed on pilgrimage in time, the other in a dwelling place in eternity; one is a life of toil, the other of repose; one is spent on the road, the other in our homeland; one is active, involving labor, the other contemplative, the reward of labor.

The first kind of life is symbolized by the apostle Peter, the second by John. All of the first life is lived in this world, and it will come to an end with this world. The second life will be imperfect till the end of this world, but it will have no end in the next world. And so Christ says to Peter: Follow me; but of John he says: If I wish him to remain until I come, what is that to you? Your duty is to follow me.

You are to follow me by imitating my endurance of transient evils; John is to remain until my coming, when I will bring eternal blessings. A way of saying this more clearly might be: Your active life will be perfect if you follow the example of my passion, but to attain its full perfection John’s life of contemplation must wait until I come.

Perfect patience is to follow Christ faithfully, even to death, but for perfect knowledge we must await his coming. Here, in the land of the dying, the sufferings of the world must be endured; there, in the land of the living, shall be seen the good things of the Lord.

Christ’s words, I wish him to remain until I come, should not be taken to imply that John was to remain on earth until Christ’s coming, but rather that he was to wait because it is not now but only when Christ comes that the life he symbolizes will find fulfillment. On the other hand, Christ says to Peter: Your duty is to follow me, because the life Peter symbolizes can attain its goal only by action here and now.

Yet we should make no mental separation between these great apostles. Both lived the life symbolized by Peter; both were to attain the life symbolized by John. Symbolically, one followed, the other remained, but living by faith they both endured the sufferings of this present life of sorrow and they both longed for the joys of the future life of happiness.

Nor were they alone in this. They were one with the whole Church, the bride of Christ, which will in time be delivered from the trials of this life and live for ever in the joy of the next. These two kinds of life were represented respectively by Peter and John, yet both apostles lived by faith in this present, passing life and in eternal life both have the joy of vision.

And so for the sake of all the saints inseparably united to the body of Christ, to guide them through the storms of this life, Peter, the chief of the apostles, received the keys of the kingdom of heaven with the power to bind and loose sins; and for the sake of those same saints, to plumb the depths of that other, hidden life, John the evangelist reclined on the breast of Christ.

For it is not only Peter but the whole Church that binds and looses from sin; and as for the sublime teaching of John about the Word, who in the beginning was God with God, and everything else he told us about Christ’s divinity, and about the trinity and unity of the Godhead, which now, until the Lord comes, is all like a faint reflection in a mirror, but which will be seen face to face in the kingdom of heaven—it was not only John who drank in this teaching that came forth from the Lord’s breast as from a fountain. All who belong to the Lord are to drink it in, each according to his capacity, and this is why the Lord himself has spread John’s gospel throughout the world.

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

 






Fr JEAN CORBON OP
reflects on


Ascension of the Lord



An excerpt from: Wellspring of Worship


It is highly regrettable that the majority of the faithful pay so little heed to the Ascension of the Lord. Their lack of appreciation of it is closely connected with their lack of appreciation of the mystery of the liturgy. A superficial reading of the end of the Synoptic Gospels and the first chapter of Acts can give the impression that Christ simply departed. In the mind of readers not submissive to the Spirit a page has been turned; they now begin to think of Jesus as in the past and to speak of what "he said" and what "he did."

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.

This excerpt from Corbon’s 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

 

SOLEMNITY


Ascension of the Lord


“For Christ did not enter into a sanctuary made by hands, a copy of the true one, but heaven itself, that he might now appear before God on our behalf.” (Hebrews 9:24.)

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

“If the ancient custom of sacrifices is clear to you, let us see what these things also contain according to the mystical understanding. You heard that there were two sanctuaries: one, as it were, visible and open to the priests; the other, as it were, invisible and inaccessible. With the exception of the high priest alone, the others were outside. I think this first sanctuary can be understood as this church in which we are now placed in the flesh, in which the priests minister “at the altar of the whole burnt offerings” with that fire kindled about which Jesus said, “I came to cast fire upon the earth, and would that it were already kindled.” And I do not want you to marvel that this sanctuary is open only to the priests. For all who have been anointed with the chrism of the sacred anointing have become priests, just as Peter says to all the church, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.” Therefore you are a priestly race, and because of this you approach the sanctuary. Therefore the priesthood is exercised in this way in the first sanctuary and the offerings are offered. And from this sanctuary the high priest, dressed in the sanctified garments, proceeds and enters into the interior of the veil just as we already pointed out above in citing the words of Paul, “Christ has entered not into a sanctuary made with hands but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.” Therefore, the place of heaven and the throne itself of God are designated by the figure and the image of the interior sanctuary.” (Homilies on Leviticus, /i>9.)


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


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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 a 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

 






EASTER SEASON


Week 6: Wednesday


“... 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 Sermon 1 on the Ascension

Easter Week 6: Wednesday

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

 





FEAST


Saints Philip and James, Apostles


“After that, he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at once, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.” (1 Corinthians 15:6.)

Saint Cyril of Jerusalem comments on this verse from the First Reading proclaimed at Mass today:

“He appeared to Cephas; and after that to the twelve.” So if you disbelieve one witness, you have twelve witnesses. “Then he was seen by more than five hundred people at once” — if they disbelieve the twelve, then listen to the five hundred. “After that he was seen by James,” his own brother and the first overseer of this [Jerusalem] diocese. Since so noteworthy a bishop was privileged to see the risen Christ, along with the other disciples, do not disbelieve. But you may say that his brother was a biased witness. So then he continues: “He was seen by me.” But who am I? I am Paul, his enemy! “I was formerly a persecutor” but now preach the good news of the resurrection.” (Catechetical Lectures, 14.)


Collect
O God, Who gladden us each year
with the feast day
of the Apostles Philip and James,
grant us, through their prayers,
a share in the Passion and Resurrection
of Your Only Begotten Son,
so that we may merit
to behold you for eternity.
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 preaching of the apostles


(Priest and Ancient Christian Writer)

An excerpt from On the Prescription of Heretics

FEAST: Saints Philip and James, Apostles

Our Lord Jesus Christ himself declared what he was, what he had been, how he was carrying out his Father’s will, what obligations he demanded of men. This he did during his earthly life, either publicly to the crowds or privately to his disciples. Twelve of these he picked out to be his special companions, appointed to teach the nations.

One of them fell from his place. The remaining eleven were commanded by Christ, as he was leaving the earth to return to the Father after his resurrection, to go and teach the nations and to baptize them into the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

The apostles cast lots and added Matthias to their number, in place of Judas, as the twelfth apostle. The authority for this action is to be found in a prophetic psalm of David. After receiving the power of the Holy Spirit which had been promised to them, so that they could work miracles and proclaim the truth, they first bore witness to their faith in Jesus Christ and established churches throughout Judea. They then went out into the whole world and proclaimed to the nations the same doctrinal faith.

They set up churches in every city. Other churches received from them a living transplant of faith and the seed of doctrine, and through this daily process of transplanting they became churches. They therefore qualify as apostolic churches by being the offspring of churches that are apostolic.

Every family has to be traced back to its origins. That is why we can say that all these great churches constitute that one original Church of the apostles; for it is from them that they all come. They are all primitive, all apostolic, because they are all one. They bear witness to this unity by the peace in which they all live, the brotherhood which is their name, the fellowship to which they are pledged. The principle on which these associations are based is common tradition by which they share the same sacramental bond.

The only way in which we can prove what the apostles taught—that is to say, what Christ revealed to them—is through those same churches. They were founded by the apostles themselves, who first preached to them by what is called the living voice and later by means of letters.

The Lord had said clearly in former times: I have many more things to tell you, but you cannot endure them now. But he went on to say: When the Spirit of truth comes, he will lead you into the whole truth. Thus Christ shows us that the apostles had full knowledge of the truth, for he had promised that they would receive the whole truth through the Spirit of truth. His promise was certainly fulfilled, since the Acts of the Apostles prove that the Holy Spirit came down on them.


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

 






MEMORIAL


Saint Athanasius of Alexandria


“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 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
Almighty, ever-living God,
Who raised up the Bishop Saint Athanasius
as an outstanding champion
of Your Son’s divinity,
mercifully grant, that,
rejoicing in his teaching and protection,
we may never cease to grow
in knowledge and love of you.
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. Amen.


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