Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ascension Thursday—10 May A.D. 2018
Ave Maria!

Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ

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

    I’ve been editing a page on the Parish Website that has the seasonal readings from the Divine Office.[1]  Since Ascension Thursday is celebrated with an Octave, there are an abundant number of readings dealing with the Ascension.  We are fortunate to have the writings of two great Popes—Leo and Gregory the Great.  Both of these men wrote not only with papal authority, but with flawless logic as well.

    Pope Saint Leo the Great tells us:

    God was pleased to ordain, by His Most Sacred Will, and in His Providence for our instruction and the profit of our souls, a season of forty days—which season, dearly beloved brethren, ends on this day. During that season the bodily Presence of the Lord still lingered on earth, that the reality of the fact of His having risen again from the dead might be armed with all needed proof.

    And, in all truth, it was a great and unspeakable cause for joy to see the Manhood, in the presence of that the multitude of believers, exalted above all creatures even heavenly, rising above the ranks of the angelic armies and speeding Its glorious way where the most noble of the Archangels lie far behind, to rest no lower than that place where high above all principality and power, It took Its seat at the right hand of the Eternal Father, Sharer of His throne, and Partaker of His glory, and still of the very man's nature which the Son hath taken upon Himself. 

    Through the unspeakable goodness of Christ we have gained more than ever we lost by the envy of the devil. We, whom our venomous enemy thrust from our first happy home, we, being made of one body with the Son of God, have by Him been given a place at the right hand of the Father….[2]

    The forty day period and subsequent Ascension seem to be our Lord’s effort to demonstrate to mankind that He had truly risen from the dead in both His sacred humanity and in His divinity. He was, of course, true God—but also true Man.  He allowed Himself to be touched and probed, he cooked dinner, and He ate with His Apostles—He was no ghost, nor figment of the imagination.[3]  The importance of all of this is that we have been assured of the possibility of both the resurrection of our own bodies, and the possibility of our resurrected bodies one day standing forever before the throne of God, the Creator of the Universe.


    And Pope Saint Gregory the Great:

    For my part, I put my trust in Thomas, who doubted long, much more than in Mary Magdalene, who believed at once. Through his doubting, he came actually to handle the holes of the Wounds, and thereby closed up any wound of doubt in our hearts.

    After "eating together with them He was taken up." He ate and ascended: that the fact of His eating might show the reality of the Body in Which He went up. But Mark tells us that before the Lord ascended into heaven, "He upbraided His disciples; with their unbelief and hardness of heart." From this I know not why we should gather, but that the Lord then upbraided His disciples, for whom He was about to be parted in the body, to the end that the words which He spoke unto them as He left them might be the deeper imprinted on their hearts.[4]

    A Catholic lady recently asked me why Jesus did not allow the whole world to witness His ascension, instead limiting the witnesses to the few who had been eating with Him in the Upper Room—the Apostles, the Blessed Virgin and a few other women who had ministered to Jesus during His lifetime.[5]  Wouldn’t being an observer of the Ascension make believers of all who witnessed?

    Making the whole world see the event seems like a tremendous feat!  But since God can do anything, that couldn’t be the reason.  I think the reason is that Jesus knew that there would be many who would still not believe.  During His public life Jesus worked many miracles, which were seen by multitudes of people.  Yet, many went away unbelieving—and some of them even labored to have Him put to death on the Cross.  Many people saw Jesus after His Resurrection, yet not all believed.  Saint Paul refers to five hundred people in addition to the Apostles.[6]

    Think of the guilt involved in witnessing His miracles and yet demanding His death.  Think of the guilt involved in witnessing His Resurrection and Ascension into heaven and remaining an unbeliever.  Actual witnesses would be far more guilty than those who learned only second hand.

    Pope Gregory gives us a clue about the nature of belief and the reward of faith.  He observes that Saint Thomas the Apostle gives us more firm ground on which to believe in the Resurrection than does Mary Magdalene—Thomas demanded to see and probe the wounds of the Crucifixion.  But listen to our Lord’s words to Thomas: 

    Because thou hast seen me, Thomas, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and have [yet] believed.[7]

    We were not witnesses to any of this—we who were born two thousand years later!  But we have the testimony of witnesses who proved their reliability by shedding their blood for the Truth of Christ—In human terms: people who had nothing to gain and a great deal to lose.

    So, our Lord is addressing us, as He addressed Saint Thomas:  “blessed are we that have not seen, and have [yet] believed.




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