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.
Jesus, then—the Man who dwelt on the earth and was perfect in all holiness—has ascended into heaven. This earth, accursed of God as it was, has produced the fairest Fruit of heaven; and heaven, with its gates shut against our race, has had to open them for the entrance of a Son of Adam. It is the mystery of the Ascension; but it is only a part, and it imports us to know the mystery in its fullness. Let us give ear to the Apostle of the Gentiles: God, who is rich in mercy, through his exceeding charity wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ; and hath raised us up together with him, and hath made us sit in the heavenly places together with him. We have celebrated the Pasch of our Savior’s Resurrection as our own Resurrection; we must, agreeably to the Apostle’s teaching, celebrate also his Ascension as our own. Let us weigh well the expression: God hath made us sit in the heavenly places together with Christ. So, then, in the Ascension, it is not Jesus only who ascends into heaven; we ascend thither with him: it is not he only that is enthroned there in glory; we are enthroned through and together with him.
That we may the better understand this truth, let us remember, that the Son of God did not assume our Human Nature with a view to the exclusive glorification of the Flesh which he united to his own Divine Person. He came to be our Head. We, consequently, are his Members; and where He is, we also are to be; at least, such is his intention, as he implied at the Last Supper, when he said: Father! I will that where I am, they also whom thou hast given me may be with me, that they may see my glory which thou hast given me. And what is the glory given to him by his Father? Let us hearken to the Royal Prophet, who speaking of the future Ascension, says: The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit thou at my right hand! It is, then, on the very throne of the Eternal Father, it is at his right hand, that we shall see Him whom the Apostle calls our fore-runner. We shall be united with this Jesus, as Members to our Head; so that his glory will be ours; we shall be kings, with his Kingship, he would make us partake of all that he himself has for he tells us that we are his joint-heirs.
From this, it follows that the august mystery of the Ascension, which began on the Day of Jesus’ entering into heaven, is to be continued, and will continue, until his mystical Body has received its completion by the ascension of the last of the Elect. Look at that countless host of holy souls who were the earliest companions of his triumph: foremost are our First Parents; then the Patriarchs, the Prophets, and the Just of every generation of the preceding four thousand years! They had been imprisoned in Limbo; but he liberated them, gave them of his own brightness, and made them his partners in the glory of his Ascension. They were his trophy; they formed his court, as he passed from earth to heaven. Well did we exclaim in the words of holy David: Sing ye to the Lord! Sing ye to God, who mounteth above the heaven of heavens, towards the East.
The angels were ready to receive our Emmanuel; and then began that sublime dialogue, which the Royal Psalmist was permitted to hear and prophesy. The glad countless legion of the holy souls who escorted the Divine Conqueror cried out to the guardians of the heavenly Jerusalem: Lift up your gates, O ye Princes! Be ye lifted up, O eternal gates! and the King of glory shall enter in. The faithful Angels replied: Who is this King of glory!—It is the Lord, responded the elect of earth; it is the Lord who is strong and mighty; the Lord mighty in battle. Well might they say this of our Jesus, who had vanquished Satan, Death and Hell, and brought themselves to the City’s Gate as a sample of his stupendous conquest. The Angels repeated their question; the Saints re-echoed their reply:—the Eternal Gates were thrown open, and the King and his Courtiers entered into heaven.
The Gates, then, are opened to receive our Redeemer, and opened he would have them remain for us to follow him. Admirable Ascension! oh! let us linger in its contemplation. Jesus inaugurates the grand mystery by his own entrance into heaven, and then perpetuates it by the Ascension of his elect of each successive generation; there is a ceaseless procession up to heaven, for some happy souls are ever finishing their purification in Purgatory, while some still happier ones are winging their rapid flight direct from this earthly vale of sorrows. Hail, then, O glorious Mystery! fruit of the flowers of so many mysteries! term, fulfillment, perfection of our Creator’s decree! Alas! thou hadst a long interruption by Adam’s sin; but Jesus’ triumph restored thy reign on earth, and this earth shall live in thy beauty and grace till that word shall be uttered by the Angel: Time shall be no more!—O Mystery, of joy and hope, be thou accomplished in me!
Permit us, then, O Jesus, to apply to ourselves what thou saidst to thine Apostles: I go to prepare a place for you! This has been thy aim in all thou hast done for us: thou camest into this world to open heaven for us. Thy holy Spouse, the Church, bids us fix our eyes on heaven; she points to its opened Gates, and shows us the bright track through which is passing up, from earth, an unbroken line of souls. We are still in exile; but the eye of our faith sees thee in that land above, thee the Son of Man throned at the right hand of the Ancient of days. How are we to reach thee, dear Jesus? We cannot, as thou didst, ascend by our own power: thou must needs fulfill thy promise, and our desire, of drawing us to thyself. It was the object after which thy Blessed Mother also sighed, when thou didst leave her on earth; she longed for the blissful hour of thy taking her to thyself, and awaited thy call with faith, laboring meanwhile for thy glory, and living with thee, though not seeing thee. Give us to imitate the faith and love of this thy Mother, that so we may apply to ourselves those words of thine Apostle: We are already saved—by hope. Yes, we shall be so, if thou send us, according to thy promise, the Holy Spirit whom we so ardently desire to receive; for he is to confirm within us all that thy mysteries have produced in our souls; he is to be to us a pledge of our future glorious ascension.
In presenting our petitions this day to heaven, let us take, as addressed to ourselves, the sublime instructions given by the Gothic Church of Spain, on the Ascension Feast, to her children.
Placeat, dilectissimi fratres, sæcularium cogitationum fasce deposito, erectis in sublime mentibus subvolare: et impositam ætheris fastigio assumpti hominis communionem, sequacibus cordis oculis contueri. Ad incomparabilem nobis claritatem attonitus vocandus aspectus, est Jesus Dominus noster: humilitatem nobis terrarum cœlorum dignitate commutat: acutus necesse est visus esse respicere quo sequimur. Hodie salvator noster post assumptionem carnis, sedem repetit deitatis. Hodie hominem suum intulit Patri, quem obtulit passioni. Hunc exaltans in cœlis, quem humiliaverat in infernis. Hic visurus gloriam, qui viderat sepulturam. Et qui adversus mortem mortis suæ dedit beneficium, ad spem vitæ donavit resurrectionis exemplum. Hodie rediit ad Patrem, cum tamen sine Patris, qui sibi æqualis est, potestate non venerit. Hodie ascendit in cœlum qui obsequia cœlestium cum descenderet, non amisit. Ita in Patris natura unitate consistens, ut cum homo cœlum novus intraret, novum tamen Deus hominem non haberet. Petamus igitur ab omnipotentia Patris, per nomen Filii salvatoris, gratiæ spiritualis ingressum, æternæ beatitudinis donum, beatæ mansionis ascensum, catholicæ credulitatis augmentum, hæreticæ infidelitatis excidium. Audiet profecto in confessione, quod in perditione quæsivit. Adstitit suis, qui non destitit alienis. Aderit agnitus, qui non defuit agnoscendus. Non patietur orphanos esse devotos, qui filios facere dignatus est inimicos. Dabit effectum supplicationis, qui promisit Spiritum sanctitatis. Amen.
We beseech you, dearly beloved Brethren, that, laying aside the weight of worldly thoughts, you would raise up your minds, and soar to heavenly things, and see, with the attentive eye of the heart, how Christ placed your own human nature, which he had assumed, in the highest heavens. The incomparable brightness on which we are invited to fix our astonished gaze, is Jesus our Lord. He exchanges the lowliness of this earthly dwelling for the glory of heaven. How quick must our sight not be, that it may see the land, whither we are to follow him! Today, our Savior, after assuming our human nature, returned to the throne of the Godhead. Today, he offered to his Father that same human nature, which he had previously offered to the endurance of his Passion. He exalted in heaven the Humanity that he had humbled in Limbo. He well deserved to see glory, who had seen the Tomb. He who conferred on us his own Death, that he might put ours to death—gave us the example of his Resurrection, that he might gladden us with the hope of Life. Today, he returned to the Father, though he had not been here on earth without possessing all the power of the Father, who is co-equal with him. Today, he ascended into heaven, though he had lost not the adoration of the Angels when he descended upon our earth. One with the Father in unity of substance, he so entered into heaven as the new Man, that he was not new to God. Let us, therefore, ask the Almighty Father, through the name of his Son, our Savior, that he grant us admission into a spiritual life of grace, the gift of eternal happiness, an ascension into the mansion of bliss, an increase of Catholic faith, and the destruction of heretical disbelief. He, surely, will hear us, now that we praise him, who went in search of us when we were lost. He will assist us that are now his people, who abandoned us not when we were aliens. He will be with us now that we know him, for he was not absent from us even when we knew him not. He will not suffer us to be orphans now that we are devoted to him, for he vouchsafed to make us his children when we were his enemies. He will grant us what we ask, for he has promised to send us the Holy Ghost. Amen.
From The Liturgical Year, by Dom Prosper Gueranger
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