Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!

Ascension Thursday

2 June A.D. 2011

Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English

    I mentioned yesterday that the really important feasts of the year are celebrated over a period of nine day—they have a vigil, and are followed by seven days that make an octave.  The Ascension is certainly one of these feasts.  Coming forty days after Easter it is the culmination of our Lord's public life on earth.  Our Lord offered Himself in sacrifice for our sins on the Cross, conquered the death of sin by His resurrection on the third day, and then spent forty days allowing Himself to be seen by hundreds of people who would be able to testify to the reality of His resurrection.1  Then, finally, on this day He was taken up to the glory of heaven—the glory that was naturally His in His divinity, and the glory that we might say was added to His humanity.

    The preface of the Mass during this octave goes so far as to say that He “was lifted up into heaven, so that He might make us partakers of His Godhead.”2  Not that we would be made truly divine, but that the good and faithful would be united with God, and experience His divine essence face to face in eternity.  This feast of the Ascension is thus a promise of our future glory—if we are faithful to the teachings of Jesus Christ and His Church.

    And, in order that we might keep that Faith, He promised to send them an Advocate, the Paraclete, the Spirit of truth.3  “And while eating with them, He charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, “of whom you have heard,” said He, “by My mouth; for John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.””4  Two Sundays later He sent the Holy Ghost to them—an event that we will commemorate two Sundays from now on Pentecost—an event that is renewed us when we receive the Sacrament of Confirmation.

    In today's Gospel we heard about the miracles that would be worked by the preachers of the Early Church—casting out devils, handling deadly snakes, speaking in tongues, and healing the sick.5  Intellectually we know that these things were special gifts, exercised by the Apostles and the priests of the first century or so.  When we hear about people doing such things in modern times, we are rightfully critical, for these charisms more or less vanished after the first century.  For us, the snake handlers, tongue speakers, and faith healers are the stuff of Sunday morning Protestant theatrics on television.  There are exceptions in the great saints, of course:  the Saint Anthonys, the Francis Xaviers and the Padre Pios of this world who work genuine miracles—but they tend to be a rarity.

    Interpreting this Gospel as it is addressed to us is a bit more difficult.  I came across an interesting interpretation by Father Leonard Goffine, the 17th century Norbertine monk.  Let me leave you with his thoughts to ponder for yourselves.  He says:

    In a spiritual manner all pious Catholics still work such miracles; for, as St. [John] 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.6


2  Preface for Ascension and its Octave


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