Feast of the Ascension



Feast of the Ascension
Adapted from The Liturgical Year by Abbot Gueranger

The sun of the fortieth day after Easter 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 around 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, expectantly waiting His coming. Suddenly He appears in their midst. Of the Mother's joy, who would dare to speak? As to the disciples and the holy women, they fall down and affectionately adore the Master, Who has come to take His leave of them. He deigns to sit down to table with them; He even condescends to eat with them, not indeed to give them proof of His Resurrection, for He knows that they have no further doubts of the mystery; but now that He is about to sit at the right hand of the Father, He would give them this endearing mark of familiarity.

What tongue could describe the respect, the recollected mien, the attention of the guests? With what love must they have riveted their eyes on the dear Master! They long to hear Him speak; His parting words will be so treasured! He does not keep them long in suspense; He speaks, but His language is not what they perhaps expected it to be – all affection. He begins by reminding them of the incredulity wherewith they heard of His Resurrection. 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.

Then, assuming a tone of authority, such as none but 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" (Mark 16: 15-16).

The hour of separation is come. Jesus rises; His Blessed Mother, and the 120 persons assembled there, prepare to follow Him. The Cenacle is situated on Mount Sion, which is one of the two hills within the walls of Jerusalem. The holy group traverses the city, making for the eastern gate, which opens on the valley of Josaphat. It is the last time that Jesus walks through the faithless city. He is invisible to the eyes of the people who denied Him, but visible to His disciples, and goes before them, as heretofore the pillar of fire led on the Israelites. How beautiful and imposing a sight! Mary, the disciples, and the holy women accompanying Jesus in His heavenward journey, which is to lead Him to the right hand of His Eternal Father! It was commemorated in the middle ages by a solemn procession before the Mass of Ascension day. What happy times were those, when Christians took delight in honoring every action of our Redeemer!

The holy group has traversed the valley of Josaphat; it has crossed the brook Cedron, and is moving onwards to Mount Olivet. What recollections crowd on the mind! On their left, are the garden and the grotto, 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 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?" (Acts 1: 6)

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" (Acts 1: 7). 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 minds of the disciples is the conversion of the world, the establishment of the Church. Jesus reminds them of the mission He has just given to them: "Ye shall receive," says He, "the power of the Holy Ghost coming upon you; and ye shall be witnesses unto Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and even to the uttermost parts of the earth" (Acts 1: 8).

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 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.

** Ascension **The disciples are still steadfastly looking up towards Heaven when 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!" (Acts 1: 10-11) He has ascended a Savior; He is to return a Judge: between these two events is comprised the whole life of the Church on earth. We are therefore living under the reign of Jesus as our Savior. To carry out His merciful designs, He gave 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 this is that He imposes on the Apostles! And now that they are to begin their work, He leaves 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" (Luke 24: 52). These few words of the Gospel indicate the spirit of this admirable Feast of the Ascension: it is a festival which, notwithstanding a tinge of sadness, is, more than any other, expressive of joy and triumph. This solemnity is the completion of the mysteries of our Redemption; it is one of those which were instituted by the Apostles; and, finally, it has impressed a character of sacredness on the Thursday of each week, already so highly honored by the institution of the Holy 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! In our modern times, most "Catholics" do nothing to acknowledge Christ the King when in public. To say nothing of the evil results of this 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.

The liturgical symbol of this Feast is the Paschal Candle. It was first lit on the night of the Resurrection, and it reminds us, by its forty days' presence, of the time which Jesus spent among His brethren, after He had risen from the grave. The eyes of the faithful are fixed upon it, and its light seems to be burning more brightly, now that we are about to lose it. After the Gospel of the Mass, this sweet symbol of Jesus' presence is extinguished. This expressive rite tells us of the widowhood of Holy Mother the Church, and that we, when we would contemplate our beloved Lord, must turn our hearts to Heaven.

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.

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 honor this pious tradition by assembling in the choir, at the hour of midday on the Ascension, and spending it in the contemplation of this last of Jesus' mysteries, following Him in thought and desire, to the throne of His glory. Let us also follow Him; but before looking on the bright noon which smiles on His triumph, let us go back in thought to His first coming among us. It was at midnight, in the stable of Bethlehem. That dark and silent hour was an appropriate commencement to the 33 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 midday, when He was thus raised up in the air; but the eternal Father would not permit the sun to shine on Jesus' humiliation. Darkness covered the face of the earth; and that day had no noon. Three hours after, the sun reappeared. Three days after, the Crucified rose again from the tomb, and it was at the early dawn of light.

Today at noon, 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!

In the middle ages, the Sunday after the Ascension was called the Sunday of Roses, because it was the custom to strew the pavement of the churches with roses, as a homage to Christ Who ascended to Heaven when earth was in the season of flowers. How well the Christians of those times appreciated the harmony that God has set between the world of grace and that of nature! The Feast of the Ascension, when considered in its chief characteristic, is one of gladness and jubilation, and spring's loveliest days are made for its celebration. Our forefathers had the spirit of the Church; they forgot, for a moment, the sadness of poor earth at losing her Emmanuel, and they remembered how He said to His Apostles: "If you loved Me, you would be glad, because I go to the Father!" (John 14: 28) Let us do in like manner; let us offer to Jesus the roses wherewith He has beautified our earth: their beauty and fragrance should make us think of Him Who made them, of Him Who calls Himself the flower of the field and the lily of the valleys (Cant. 2: 1). He loved to be called Jesus of Nazareth; for Nazareth means a flower; and the symbol would tell us what a charm and sweetness there is in Him Whom we serve and love as our God.

Salve Regina
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The Lesson is taken from a Sermon by St. Leo the Pope

After the blessed and glorious resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ (wherein was raised up in three days that true Temple of God which had been destroyed by the ímpiety of Jewry), there came by God's providential ordering a season of forty days, the annual commemoration of which endeth on this day. The original great forty days, dearly beloved, were spent by the Lord in profitable instruction for our benefit. On this wise, his bodily presence was still given to the earth during all these forty days, that our faith in his resurrection might be armed with all needful proofs. For the death of Christ had troubled the hearts of many of his disciples; their thoughts were sad when they remembered his agony upon the cross, his giving up of the Ghost, and the burial in the grave of his lifeless body: and so a sort of hesitation had begun to weigh on them.

Hence the most blessed Apostles and all the disciples who had been fearful concerning the death on the cross, and doubtful of the trustworthiness of the report of Christ's resurrection, were so strengthened by the clear demonstration of the truth, that, when they saw the Lord going up into the heights of heaven, they sorrowed not; nay, they were even filled with great joy. And, in all verity, it was a mighty and unspeakable cause of rejoicing for all the holy multitude of believers, when they perceived that the nature of mankind was thus exalted above all creatures, even the heavenly spirits, so as to pass above the ranks of the Angels, and be raised beyond the heights of the Archangels. For on this wise they perceived that no limit was set upon the uplifting of that nature short of the right hand of the Eternal Father, where it was to be Sharer of his throne, and Partaker of his glory; and nevertheless it was still nothing more than that nature of man, which the Son hath taken upon him.

Therefore, dearly beloved, let us also rejoice with fitting joy. For the Ascension of Christ is exaltation for us. And whither the glory of the Head of the Church is passed in, thither is the hope of the body of the Church called on to follow. Let us rejoice with exceeding great joy, and give God glad thanks. This day is not only the possession of paradise made sure unto us, but in Christ our Head we are actually entering into the heavenly mansions above. Through the unspeakable goodness of Christ we have gained more than ever we lost by the envy of the devil. For those whom our venomous enemy cast down from the happiness of their first estate, those same hath the Son of God made to be of one body with himself, and hath given them a place at the right hand of the Father: with whom he liveth and reigneth, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

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"I will not leave you orphans, says the Lord; I will come back to you, and your hearts will rejoice." John 14; 18

HAPPY FEAST of the Ascension!




The Feast of the Ascension may be transferred to Sunday May 23, at the discretion of your local bishop.

From Venerable Anne Catherine Emmerich's visions of the Lord Jesus Christ ascending into Heaven. FROM THE BOOK:


On the night before His wonderful ascension, I saw Jesus in the inner hall of the house of the Last Supper with the Blessed Virgin and The Eleven. The disciples and the holy women were praying in the side halls. In the Supper Room the Communion Table was standing under the lighted lamp, and on it the Paschal Bread and chalice. The Apostles were in their robes of ceremony. The Blessed Virgin was opposite Jesus who, as on Maundy Thursday, was consecrating bread and wine.

I saw the Blessed Sacrament entering the mouth of the Apostles in the form of a luminous body, and Jesus' words at the consecration of the wine flowing into the chalice like a stream of red light.

During the last days, Magdalen, Martha, and Mary Cleophas received the Blessed Sacrament.

Toward morning matins were solemnly recited as usual under the lamp. Jesus again imparted to Peter jurisdiction over the others, again laid upon him the mantle of which I have spoken, and repeated what He had said on the mountain by the Sea of Tiberias. He gave some instructions also on baptism and the blessing of water. During matins and the instructions, I saw seventeen of the most confidential disciples standing in the hall behind the Blessed Virgin.

Before leaving the house, Jesus presented the Blessed Virgin to the Apostles and disciples as their Mother, their Mediatrix, and their Advocate, and she bestowed upon Peter and all the rest her blessing which they received bowing very low. At that instant I beheld Mary raised upon a throne, a sky-blue mantle around her, a crown upon her head. This was symbolical of her dignity as Queen of Mercy.

At dawn of day Jesus left the house of the Last Supper with The Eleven. The Blessed Virgin followed them closely; the disciples, at some little distance. They passed through the streets of Jerusalem where all was quiet, the inhabitants still buried in sleep. At each moment the Lord became more earnest, more rapid in speech and action. On the preceding evening He appeared to me much more sympathetic in His words to His followers. I recognized the route that they took as that of the Palm Sunday procession. I saw that Jesus went with them over all the paths trodden by Him during His Passion, in order to inspire them by His teachings and admonitions with a lively appreciation of the fulfilment of the Promise. In every place in which some scene of His Passion had been enacted, He paused a moment to instruct them upon the accomplishment of the words of the Prophets, upon the Promises, and to explain the symbolical relation of the place to the same. On those sites which the Jews had laid waste, over which they had thrown heaps of stones, through which they had opened ditches, or which they had rendered impassable in other ways in order to prevent their being venerated, Jesus ordered the disciples in His train to go on ahead and clear away all obstructions, which they quickly did. Then bowing low as He passed, they allowed Him to take the lead again while they followed. Just before the gate that led out to Mount Calvary, they turned aside from the road to a delightful spot shaded by trees. It was one of several places of prayer that lay around Jerusalem. Jesus paused to teach and comfort the little flock. Meanwhile day dawned brightly; their heart grew lighter, and they even began to think that Jesus would still remain with them.

New crowds of believers arrived, but I saw no women among them. Jesus again took the road that led to Mount Calvary and the Holy Sepulchre. But He did not follow it up to those points, He turned off and went around the city to the Mount of Olives. Some of the places on these roads consecrated to prayer and sanctified by Jesus' teaching, and which had been laid waste or hedged in by the Jews, were now restored by the disciples. The tools for their work they found in the gardens on their way. I remember round shovels that looked like our bake-oven shovels,

Jesus paused awhile with the crowd in an exceedingly cool and lovely spot covered with beautiful long grass. I was surprised to see that it was nowhere trodden down. The multitude that here surrounded Jesus was so great that I could no longer count them. Jesus spoke to them a very long time, like one who is about closing his discourse and coming to a conclusion. His hearers divined that the hour of parting was near, and yet they had no idea that the time still intervening was to be so short. The sun was already high, was already far above the horizon. I know not whether I express it rightly for in that country, it seems to me the sun is not so high as it is here. It always appears to me as if it were nearer to one. I do not see it as here rising like a small globe. It shines there with far more brilliancy. Its rays are, on the whole, not so fine. They often look like a broad pathway of light. Jesus and His followers tarried here fully an hour. By this time the people in Jerusalem were all on the alert, amazed at the crowds of people they descried around Mount Olivet. Out of the city too, crowds were pouring in bands. They consisted of all that had gone out to meet Jesus on Palm Sunday. The narrow roads were soon thronged, though around Jesus and His own, the space was left free.

The Lord went only to Gethsemani and from the Garden of Olives up to the summit of the mount. He did not set foot upon the path on which He had been arrested. The crowd followed as in a procession, ascending by the different paths that encircled the mount. Many even pressed through the fences and garden hedges. Jesus at each instant shone more brightly and His motions became more rapid. The disciples hastened after Him, but it was impossible to overtake Him. When He reached the top of the mountain, He was resplendent as a beam of white sunlight. A shining circle, glancing in all the colors of the rainbow fell from heaven around Him. The pressing crowd stood in a wide circle outside, as if blending with it. Jesus Himself shone still more brightly than the glory about Him. He laid the left hand on His breast and, raising the right turned slowly around, blessing the whole world. The crowd stood motionless. I saw all receive the benediction. Jesus did not impart it with the flat, open hand, like the rabbis, but like the Christian Bishops. With great joy I felt His blessing of the whole world.

And now the rays of light from above united with the glory emanating from Jesus, and I saw Him disappearing, dissolving as it were in the light from heaven, vanishing as He rose. I lost sight of His head first. It appeared as if one sun was lost in another, as if one flame entered another, as if a spark floated into a flame. It was as if one were gazing into the full midday splendors of the sun, though this light was whiter and clearer. Full day compared with this would be dark. First, I lost sight of Jesus' head, then His whole person, and lastly His feet radiant with light disappeared in the celestial glory. I saw innumerable souls from all sides going into that light and vanishing on high with the Lord. I can not say that I saw Him becoming apparently smaller and smaller like something flying up in the air, for He disappeared as it were in a cloud of light.

Out of that cloud, something like dew, like a shower of light fell upon all below, and when they could no longer endure the splendor, they were seized with amazement and terror. The Apostles and disciples, who were nearest to Jesus, were blinded by the dazzling glare. They were forced to lower their eyes, while many cast themselves prostrate on their face. The Blessed Virgin was standing close behind them and gazing calmly straight ahead.

After some moments when the splendor began to diminish, the whole assembly in deep silence, their soul swayed by varying emotions, gazed fixedly up at the brightness which continued visible for a long time. I saw two figures appear in this light. They looked small at first, but seemed to grow larger and larger as they descended. They were clothed in long white garments, and each held a staff in one hand. They looked like Prophets. They addressed the multitude, their voice like trumpets resounding loud and clear. It seemed to me that they could surely be heard in Jerusalem. They made no motion, stood perfectly still, and said: " 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 you have seen Him going into heaven."¹ After these words the figures vanished. The brightness remained for a while longer and then disappeared like day-light retiring before the darkness of night. The disciples were quite out of themselves, for they now comprehended what had happened to them. The Lord had left them and gone to His Heavenly Father! Many stunned by grief and amazement fell to the earth. When the glare had entirely died away, they arose again, and the others gathered around them. They formed groups, the Blessed Virgin stepped forward, and so they stood for some time longer recovering themselves, talking together, and gazing upward. At last, the Apostles and disciples went back to the house of the Last Supper, and the Blessed Virgin followed. Some were weeping like children that refuse to be comforted, others were lost in thought. The Blessed Virgin, Peter, and John were very calm, and full of consolation. I saw however some among the different groups who remained unmoved, unbelieving, and full of doubts. They withdrew from the rest.

On the top of Mount Olivet, from which Jesus ascended, there was a level rock. On it He stood addressing the multitude before He blessed them and the cloud of light received Him. His footsteps remained impressed on the stone, and on another the mark of one hand of the Blessed Virgin. It was past noon before the crowd entirely dispersed.

The Apostles and disciples now felt themselves alone. They were at first restless and like people forsaken. But by the soothing presence of the Blessed Virgin they were comforted, and putting entire confidence in Jesus' words, that she would be to them a mediatrix, a mother, and an advocate, they regained peace of soul.

I. These words were not repeated by Sister Emmerich. She merely said : " They spoke some words." The writer has transcribed them from the Acts of the Apostles.
A certain fear stole over the Jews in Jerusalem. I saw many closing doors and windows, others gathering together in groups. During the last days, they had experienced some peculiar feelings of alarm, which today were greatly intensified.

On the following days I saw the Apostles always together and the Blessed Virgin with them in the house of the Last Supper. At the last repast of Jesus, and ever after I saw Mary when at prayer and the breaking of bread always opposite Peter, who now took the Lord's place in the prayer-circle and at meals. I received at the time the impression that Mary now held a position of high importance among the Apostles, and that she was placed over the Church.

The Apostles kept themselves very much aloof. I saw no one out of the great crowd of Jesus' followers going to them into the house of the Last Supper. They guarded more against persecution from the Jews and gave themselves up to more earnest and well-regulated prayer than did the disciples dispersed in bands throughout the other apartments of the same house. The latter went in and out more freely. I saw many of them also very devoutly traversing the way of the Lord by night.

At the election of Mathias to the Apostolate, I saw Peter in the house of the Last Supper. He was clothed in his episcopal mantle and was standing in the centre of the circle formed by the Apostles. The disciples were gathered in the open side halls. Peter proposed Joses Barsabas and Mathias, both of whom were standing off among the bands of disciples. There were some among these that wanted to be chosen in Judas' place. The two mentioned had never thought of such a thing, and had no desires on the subject. Next day the lots were cast, Barsabas and Mathias being excluded from the assembly. When it was found that the lot had fallen on Mathias, some one went into the discipkes' aprtments and led him to the Apostles.