Ascension Day: Thank an Apostle!
"The Rabbula Gospels, or Rabula Gospels, an illuminated Syriac Gospel Book, was completed in [A.D.] 586 at Monastery of St. John of Zagba, which, although traditionally thought to have been in Northern Mesopotamia, is now thought to have been in the hinterland between Antioch and Apamea. It was signed by its scribe, Rabbula, about whom nothing else is known." HistoryofInformation.com
Photo by Dsmdgold, Public Domain. RabulaGospelsFol13vAscension.jpg
Created: 4 January 2005
Psallite Domino, qui ascendit super coelos coelorum ad Orientem, alleluia.
Sing ye to the Lord, who mounteth above the heaven of heavens to the East, alleluia.
(Ps. 67:33-34) 1962 Roman Missal, Communion verse for The Ascension of Our Lord.
Here at Clear Creek, we are blessed to celebrate the Feast of the Ascension, a holy day of obligation, as it traditionally was for hundreds of years: on the fortieth day after the Resurrection (Easter). It is truly impoverishing that in most dioceses, the Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord is now delayed until Sunday so as not to inconvenience the faithful, who apparently, so they believe, have better things to do than commemorate the rising of Our Lord into His Heavenly Kingdom on a Thursday. (Whether or not the faithful, given the chance to keep the feast in its rightful place or not, would choose to do so, is another question.) Suffice it to say that in the opinion of traditional-minded Catholics, it destroys the true timeline of events when instead of spending nine days in prayer in the Upper Room (from Ascension Thursday to Pentecost Sunday), the Church celebrates feast of the Holy Spirit just seven days later. But here at Clear Creek, all is well in the liturgical world, for which I am extremely thankful.
Traditional Catholic parishes and monasteries enthusiastically celebrate all of Eastertide, meaning for us the Easter bunny doesn't come and go on Sunday morning and that is the end of it. No. We have been celebrating, to a greater or lesser extent, since April 4th, singing "alleluias" in the Divine Office and nibbling chocolate eggs for the past forty days (a sacred number for Biblical people). In the Liturgy, Jesus has been appearing all over the place to His, shall we say, skeptical disciples, starting with Saint Thomas, who had to place his finger in the Holy Wounds in order to believe. Even today, at the last possible moment, just as Jesus is about to depart from Earth, Jesus verbally chastises them for their "incredulity and hardness of heart, because they did not believe them who had seen Him after He was risen again." (Mark 16:14) My missal says "He upbraided them." Perhaps a more modern word would be "scold."
Poor, dear apostles. It makes me love them all the more, knowing they were ordinary men, hardworking, level-headed, blue-collar types, not religious fanatics that believed every report of the latest apparition or prophecy that oozed over the Temple grapevine. But Our Lord set them straight. And then to seal the deal, so to speak, to make sure they really believed He was who He said He was, He performed one more miracle, rising dramatically before their unbelieving eyes. Their mouths agape, their hearts pounding excitedly, they watched Him go higher and higher, until "a cloud received Him out of their sight." (Acts 1:9)
Before He did so, though, they got their marching orders. "Go into the whole world and preach the Gospel to every creature." And they did. The previously doubtful Saint Thomas, it is said, went all the way to India, where the Church today is thriving to the point that they are sending surplus priests and nuns to America. And that is why, if you believe in Jesus Christ, and you make it to Heaven one fine day, you should seek them out, bow profoundly and say "thank you!!" Thank the Apostles for loving Jesus so much they would sacrifice their livelihoods, their families, and ultimately their own lives, just so that people like you and me can receive Our Lord's Body and Blood at Holy Mass on Sundays. And sometimes even on Thursdays.
If you are presently among those suffering Catholics who are unable to go to Holy Mass frequently (or at all) due to Covid restrictions, pray to the Holy Apostles and beg them to intercede for you that the bishops and pastors will have the courage to open up the churches once again. And of course, remember you always have recourse to Our Lady, who Tradition teaches was there at the Ascension as well (see artwork above.) That's another person you should thank, by the way. And take great comfort from the fact that like her, one day we too will follow Christ into Heaven, spiritually at first, but then corporally at the Resurrection, body and soul. If this seems too good to be true, remember this is an article of our Faith. We say it every time we pray the Creed.
On Ascension Day, A.D. 33, Jesus gave us a glorious preview of our future destiny. On Easter Sunday, 2021, Father Abbot Philip Anderson, OSB did something similar. With his characteristic hope and conviction born of a deep faith, he sums up the Paschal mystery, of which this day is a part, far more eloquently than anyone else possibly could.
When all is said and done, when the story of our lives has run its wild and winding course, when all the dramas have been lived out and all the consequences of our acts told and every debt paid, when history shall have played itself out to the end through the seasons of the heart and mind of man, with all the wreckage and ruin, when every Apocalypse shall have spent its fury and its mystery, the enemy having been definitively trodden underfoot, what will remain is—very simply—life, Divine life, eternal life, the very being of one God in Three Persons, shared with those who will be saved, all of us here as we hope, through the Incarnation, Passion, and Paschal victory of Our Lord, the Prince of Life. And then there will be nothing left to say but “Alleluia.” Amen.
If you would like to read all of Father Abbot's Easter homily, click here.
Grant, we beseech Thee, almighty God: that we, who believe Thine only-begotten Son, our Redeemer, to have ascended on this day into heaven, may also ourselves dwell in mind amid heavenly things.
1962 Roman Missal, Collect for The Ascension of Our Lord
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If I have erred in any statement, whether directly or by implication, in any matter pertaining to faith or morals, I humbly invite fraternal correction.