Thursday, May 17, 2018

Thursday, the Octave of the Ascension

White
Greater Double

O rex gloriæ, Domine virtutum, qui triumphator hodie super omnes cœlos ascendisti, ne derelinquas nos orphanos; sed mitte promissum Patris in nos Spiritum veritatis, alleluia.

O King of glory, Lord of hosts, who didst this day ascend in triumph above all the heavens! leave us not orphans, but send upon us the Spirit of truth, promised by the Father, alleluia.

We have already seen how the Ascension of our Emmanuel won him the empire over our understanding:—it was the triumph of Faith. The same mystery gave him a second victory—the victory of Love, which makes him reign in our hearts. For eighteen hundred years, in whom have men believed, firmly and universally, except in Jesus? In what else have men agreed, except in the dogmas of Faith? What countless errors has not this divine torch dispelled? What light has it not given to the nations that received it? and in what darkness has it not left those which rejected it after having once received it?

In like manner, no one has been loved as our Jesus has been, ever since the day of his Ascension: no one is so loved now or ever will be, as He. But, that he might thus win our love, he had to leave us, just as he had to do in order to secure oru Faith. Let us return to our text, that we may get deeper into the beautiful mystery. It is expedient for you that I go! Before the Ascension, the Disciples were as inconstant in the love as they were in their faith. Jesus could not trust them. But, no sooner had he left them, than they became warmly devoted to him. Instead of complaining at their bereavement, they returned full of joy to Jerusalem. The thought of their Master’s triumph made them forget their own loss, and they hastened, as he bade them, to the Cenacle, where they were to be endued with Power from on high. Watch these men during the subsequent years; examine what their conduct was from that time to the day of their death; count, if you can, their acts of devotedness in the arduous labor of preaching the Gospel; and say, if any other motive than love for their Master could have enabled them to do what they did? With what cheerfulness did they not drink his Chalice? With what rapture did they not hail his Cross, when they saw it being prepared for themselves?

But let us not stop at these first witnesses; they had seen Jesus and heard him, and touched him:—let us turn to those who came after them, and knew him by faith only: let us see if the love which burned in the hearts of the Apostles has been kept up by the Christians of the past eighteen centuries. First of all, there is the contest of Martyrdom, which has never been altogether interrupted since the Gospel began to be preached. The opening campaign lasted three hundred years. What was it that induced so many millions to suffer, not only patiently, but gladly, every torture that cruelty could devise? Was it not their ambition to testify how much they loved their Jesus? Let us not forget how these frightful ordeals were cheerfully gone through, not only by men hardened to suffering, but also by delicate women, by young girls, yea even by little children. Let us call to mind the sublime answers they gave to their persecutors, whereby they evinced their generous ardor to repay the death of Jesus by their own. The Martyrs of our own times, in China, Japan, the Corea, and elsewhere, have repeated, without knowing it, the very same words to their judges and executioners as were addressed to the Proconsuls of the third and fourth centuries by the Martyrs of those days.

Yes, our divine King who has ascended into heaven is loved as no other ever was or could be. Think of those millions of generous souls who, that they might be exclusively his, have despised all earthly affections, and would know no other love than his. Every age—even our own, in spite of all its miseries—has produced souls of this stamp, and only God knows how many.

Our Emmanuel has been, and to the end of time, will ever be loved on this earth. Have we not reason to say so when we consider how many there have always been, even among the wealthiest ones of the world, who, in order that they might bear a resemblance to the Babe of Bethlehem, have given up everything they possessed? What an irresistible proof of the same truth have we not in the countless sacrifices of self-love and pride, made with a view to imitate the Obedience of the God-Man on earth? And what else but an ardent love of Jesus could have prompted those heroic acts of mortification and penance, whereby the Sufferings of his Passion have been emulated and, as the Apostle says, filled up?

But grand as all this is, it was not enough to satisfy man’s devoted love of his absent Lord. Jesus had said, at least implicitly: Whatsoever you do to the least of your brethren, you do it to me. Love is ever quick at catching the meaning of our Redeemer’s words. It took advantage of these, and saw in them another means for reaching its Jesus—reaching him through the Poor. And as the worst of poverties is the ignorance of divine truths, because it would make a man poor and miserable for eternity—therefore have there risen up, in every age, zealous apostles who, bidding farewell to home and fatherland, have carried the light of the Gospel to them that sat in darkness and in the shadow of death. They heeded not the fatigues or the perils of such a mission: what cared they for all these things if they could but make Jesus known and honored, and loved, by one poor savage or Hindoo?

But what of those other poor ones—the sick—in whom Jesus suffers? Fear not: he is too much loved to be forgotten there. Once let the Church be free enough to develop her plans of charity, and there will be an Institute of relief for every class of sufferers. The poor, the sick—all will be cared for and comforted. There will be vocations to Charity, to meet every want; and women too, urged by the love of their Divine Lord, will deem it an honor to be the nurses and attendants of a suffering or dying Lazarus. The world itself is in admiration at their heroism; and though it knows not the divine principle which originates these charitable Institutions, yet is it obliged to acknowledge the extraordinary good they effect.

But man’s observation can only reach the exterior; the interior is the far grander reality, and it is beyond his notice. What we have said so far is, therefore, but a very feeble description of the ardor wherewith our Lord Jesus Christ has been, and still is, loved on this earth. Let us picture to ourselves the millions of Christians who have lived since the first foundations of the Church. Many, it is true, have had the misfortune to be unfaithful to the object of their existence; but what an immense number have loved Jesus with all their heart, and soul, and strength? Some have never flagged in their love; others have needed a conversion from vice or tepidity, returned to him, and slept in the kiss of peace. Count, if you can, the virtuous actions, the heroic sacrifices, of those countless devoted servants of his, who are to be arrayed before him in the Valley of Josaphat. His memory alone can hold and tell the stupendous total of what has been done. This well-nigh infinite aggregate of holy deeds and thoughts—from the seraphic ardor of the greatest Saint, down to the cup of cold water given in the name of the Redeemer, what is it all but the ceaseless hymn of our earth to its beloved Absent One, its never-forgotten Jesus? Who is the man, how dear soever his memory may be, for whom we would be devoted, or sacrifice our interests, or lay down our lives, especially if he had been ten or twenty ages gone from us? Who is that great Dead, the sound of whose name can make the hearts of men vibrate with love, in every country and in every generation? It is Jesus, who died, who rose again, who ascended into heaven.

But we humbly confess, O Jesus, that it was necessary for us that thou shouldst go from us in order that our faith might soar up to thee in heaven, and that our hearts, being thus enlightened, might burn with thy love. Enjoy thine Ascension, O thou King of Angels and men! We, in our exile, will feast on the fruits of the great mystery, waiting for it to be fulfilled in ourselves. Enlighten those poor blind infidels, whose pride will not permit them to recognize thee, notwithstanding these most evident proofs. They continue in their errors concerning thee, though they have such superabundant testimony of thy Divinity, in the faith and love thou hast received in every age. The homage offered thee by the universe represented, as it has ever been, by the chief nations of the earth, and by the most virtuous and learned men of each generation—all this is, to these unbelievers, as though it had never happened. Who are they to be compared with such a cloud of faithful witnesses? Have mercy on them, O Lord! save them from their pride; then will they unite with us in saying: “It was indeed expedient for this world to lose thy visible presence, O Jesus! for never were thy greatness, thy power, and thy Divinity, so recognized and loved as when thou didst depart from us. Glory, then, be to the mystery of thine Ascension, whereby, as the Psalmist prophesied, thou receivedst gifts, that thou mightest bestow them upon men!

We will take a Hymn today from the Greek Church: it is the one she sings in honor of our Redeemer’s triumph, at her Evening Office of Ascension Day.

Hymn
(In Assumptione Domini, ad magnum Vespertinum.)

Assumptus est in cœlos Dominus, ut mundo mitteret Paraclitum. Cœli præparaverunt thronum ejus, et nubes ascensum ejus. Mirantur Angeli, supra seipsos hominem videntes. Pater suscipit quem habet in sinu coæternum. Spiritus Sanctus omnibus Angelis suis imperat: Attollite portas, principes, vestras; omnes gentes plaudite manibus, quia ascendit Christus ubi erat prius.

The Lord ascended into heaven, that he might send the Paraclete into this world. The heavens prepared his throne, and the clouds his Ascension. The Angels are lost in wonder at seeing Man exalted above them. The Father receives Him who is in his own bosom, his co-eternal Son. The Holy Ghost speaks this bidding to all his Angels: “Lift up your gates, O ye princes!” Clap your hands, all ye people, for Christ hath ascended to the heaven where he has ever been.

Domine, Assumptione tua obstupuerunt Cherubim, conspicientia te Deum in nubibus ascendentem, super ipsa sedentem; et glorificamus te, quoniam benigna est misericordia tua. Gloria tibi.

The Cherubim were in amazement at thine Assumption, O Lord! They beheld thee ascending upon the clouds, thee their God, who sittest upon themselves. We glorify thee, for compassionate is thy mercy:—Glory be to thee!

In montibus sanctis tuas videntes exaltationes, Christe, splendor gloriæ Patris, fulgentem vultus tui speciem iterum atque iterum celebramus; tuas adoramus passiones, resurrectionem honoramus, inclytam glorificantes Assumptionem: miserere nobis.

Seeing thy risings upon the holy mountains, O Christ, thou brightness of the Father’s glory! e tire not in praise of this brilliant beauty of thy Face. We adore thy Passion, we honor thy Resurrection, we glorify thy noble Assumption! Have mercy on us!

Domine, quando te in nubibus elevatum viderunt Apostoli, cum gemitibus lacrymarum tristitia repleti, Christe vitæ dator, lamentantes dicebant: Domine, utpote misericors, ne derelinquas nos orphanos, quos propter celementiam dilexisti servos tuos; sed mitte, sicut promisisti nobis sanctissimum Spiritum tuum, illuminantem animas nostras.

When the Apostles saw thee, O Lord, raised up to the clouds, they sighed, and wept and were sad. Thus to thee, O Christ, thou giver of Life, did they speak their sorrow: “Thou art merciful, O Lord! then leave not orphans us thy servants, whom, in thy goodness, thou hast loved; but send upon us, as thou hast promised, thy most Holy Spirit, who will enlighten our Souls.”

Domine, dispensationis impleto mysterio, tuos assumens discipulos, in montem Olivarum tecum ducebas; et ecce firmamentum cœli intrasti. Qui propter me egenus sicut ego factus es, et illuc ascendisti unde non es separatus, sanctissimum tuum mitte Spiritum, illuminantem animas nostras.

Having, O Lord, fulfilled the mystery of the dispensation, thou didst lead thy Disciples to Mount Olivet; when, lo! thou ascendedst into the firmament of heaven. O thou, that for my sake, wast made poor as I, and ascendedst to the realm which thou hadst never left—send thy most Holy Spirit to enlighten our souls!

A sinu paterno non separatus, dulcissime Jesu, et cum iis qui sunt in terra sicut homo conversatus, hodie a monte Olivarum assumptus es in gloria, et lapsam naturam nostram pro misericordia elevans, cum Patre sedere fecisti. Unde cœlestia incorporeorum agnima, prodigium stupentia, admiratione stabant attnota; et tremore comprehensa tuum erga homines amorem magnificabant. Cum quibus et nos in terra existentes, tuam ad nos descensionem et a nobis Assumptionem glorificantes, rogamus dicentes: Qui discipulos et genitricem tuam Deiparam infinito gaudio in tua Assumptione replevisti, nos quoque electorum tuorum lætitia dignare, prcibus eorum, propter magnam misericordiam tuam.

Living as Man with them that were on earth, thou, sweetest Jesus! wast not separated from thy Father’s bosom. On this day, thou wast taken up in glory from Mount Olivet; and mercifully raising up our fallen nature, thou placedst it on thy Father’s throne. The heavenly host of Angels stood in astonished admiration at the sight of the prodigy; and, seized with awe, they celebrated in songs of praise thy love for man. Together with them, we also, who dwell on earth, do glorify thy coming down unto us and thine ascending up from us, and thus do we pray: O thou that, in thine Assumption, filledst the Disciples and thy Mother with infinite joy; vouchsafe, through their prayers, and thine own great mercy, to give us a share in the joy of thine elect.

As a cose to this glorious Octave, we offer the eighth and last of the beautiful Prayers given by the Mozarabic Breviary in honor of our Lord’s Ascension.

Prayer

Christe Jesu, terribilis Deus noster, et rex noster, cujus in nativitate cum pastoribus Angeli gloriam detulerunt; cui, devicto mortis auctore, omnes gentes manibus cordibusque plauserunt; quem throphæa victricia reportantem ad æthera, Apostolorum est fides prosecuta: fac nos redemptionis nostræ, et Ascensionis tuæ mysteria fidei jubilatione cantare; et cum principibus populi, Deo Abraham fideli famulatu placere. Amen.

O Christ Jesus! our God of dread majesty, and our King! at whose birth the Angels and Shepherds gave glory; at whose victory over the author of death all nations clapped their hands and were filled with joy; at whose ascending, with thy trophies, into heaven, the Apostles were perfected in their faith;—grant that we, also, with fervent faith, may sing our canticles of praise in honor of the mysteries of our Redemption and of thine Ascension; and that, with the princes of thy people, we may, by our faithful services, be well-pleasing to the God of Abraham. Amen.

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