‘How lyrical that is, the opening sentence of St Luke’s description of the Visitation. We can feel the rush of warmth and kindness, the sudden urgency of love that sent that girl hurrying over the hills. “Those days” on which she rose on that impulse were the days in which Christ was being formed in her, the impulse was his impulse...
If Christ is growing in us, if we are at peace, recollected, because we know that however insignificant our life seems to be, from it he is forming himself; if we go with eager wills “in haste”, to wherever our circumstances compel us, because we believe he desires to be in that place, we shall find we are driven more and more to act on the impulse of his love.
And the answer to those impulses we shall get from others will be an awakening into life, or the leap into joy of the already weakened life within them...
We must be swift to obey the winged impulses of his love, carrying him to wherever he longs to be; and those who recognise his presence will be stirred, like Elizabeth, with new life. They will know his presence, not by any special beauty or power shown by us, but in the way that a bud knows the presence of the light, by an infolding in themselves, a putting forth of their own beauty.
It seems that this is Christ’s favourite way of being known, not by his own human features, but by the quickening of his own life in the heart, which is the response to his coming'.
Caryll Houselander, 1901-1954
O God, who didst lead the Blessed Virgin Mary to visit Elizabeth, to their exceeding joy and comfort: grant unto thy people; that as Mary did rejoice to be called the Mother of the Lord, so we may ever rejoice to believe the Incarnation of thine Only Begotten Son; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary from Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘The divine life is that of love, glory, and freedom. Man, created in God’s image and redeemed by Christ, is given by God the possibility of participating in the divine life. This redemptive grace reaches people especially through the sacraments when celebrated, participated in, and faithfully lived out.
It is the sacred liturgy that in a special way makes possible the participation in the divine life. Liturgical celebration postulates, makes possible, and increases the indwelling of the Blessed Trinity in Christ’s faithful so that they can the more give glory to the Father, through the Son, in the unity of the Holy Spirit.
Liturgical participation here below on earth tends towards the future, towards heaven... When, therefore, we talk of active participation in the sacred liturgy, we are speaking of the part that the baptised have in the celebration here on earth, which is related to the heavenly liturgy. Liturgical participation will find its eventual conclusion at the end of our earthly sojourn, for each of us, and the end of the world for the entire Church. Who does not appreciate the importance of such participation? Are we not thereby striving to contribute our part so that the will of God may be done on earth as it is in heaven? “Where God’s will is done”, said Cardinal Ratzinger, “there is heaven, there earth becomes heaven. Surrendering ourselves to the action of God, so that we in our turn may co-operate with him - that is what begins in the liturgy and is meant to unfold further beyond it”.
[S]ome people began to exaggerate “active participation” to the extreme of activism. They seemed to be pushing an unwritten agenda of active participation at all costs, in all sorts of ways, by everyone, and in all parts of the liturgy possible. Sometimes this led to noisy celebrations in which the roles of the ordained priesthood and the royal priesthood of the lay faithful were confused. Silence and times for meditative listening were apparently not considered important. Activism, or the effort to get everyone doing something active all the time, was sponsored as if it were what the Second Vatican Council had desired’.
Francis, Cardinal Arinze
‘The Church hath now finished the celebration of the high Festivals and thereby run, as it were, through a great part of the Creed, by setting before us in an orderly manner the highest Mysteries of our Redemption by Christ on earth, till the day he was taken up into Heaven, with the sending down of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost. Now after she hath in consequence and reflexion upon these Mysteries, broke out into a more solemn and special Adoration of the Blessed Trinity, she comes according to her Method in the Intervals of great Feasts to use such Epistles, Gospels, and Collects, as suit with her holy affections and aims at this season. Such, namely, as tend to our edifying, and being the living Temples of the Holy Ghost our Comforter with his Gifts and Graces; that having Oyl in our Lamps, we may be in better readiness to meet the Bridegroom at his second Advent or coming to judgement. And this done in the remaining Sundaies till Advent, which in their Services are, as it were, so many Ecchos and Reflexions upon the Mystery of Pentecost (the life of the Spirit) or as Trumpets for preparation to meet our Lord at his second coming.
The Collects... have a general congruity with the affection of the season. For as Faith, Hope and Charity, graces and gifts of the Holy Ghost, are the general subject more or less of [the] Epistles, and the same taught, exemplified and confirmed in the Gospels; so are these Collects certain general Invocations upon God for the assistance of his holy Spirit, and bringing forth the fruits of it, and consist usually of a most humble acknowledgement, and a petition suitable, as is above declared.
And as we have taken there a brief view of the pious sense and spirit of these acknowledgements, so will it not be amiss to do the same here concerning the petitions; which in each Collect are some or other of these following, or such like: That God would be pleased to prevent and follow us always with his grace, and with his mercy in all things direct and rule our hearts, to stir up our wills, pour into our hearts (graft in them) the love of his holy Name, make us to have a perpetual fear and love of it, to ask such things as shall please him, to have the Spirit, to think and do always such things as be rightful (to please him, both in will and deed) that he would encrease, nourish, keep us in true Religion and all goodness; give unto us the encrease of Faith, Hope and Charity, that we may live according to his will, with pure and free hearts follow him; accomplish those things he would have done, may be cleansed, assoyled, delivered from all our offences, have pardon peace, protection and defence; may plentifully bring forth the fruits of good works, and by him be plenteously rewarded, and obtain his promises which exceed all we can desire. Such requests as these (besides some other, That God would hear the prayers of the people, of which are by the Priest presented to God, fit for the Churches meditations at this time after Pentecost, and not unfitly following the Lessons, the Decalogue, and the following Supplications of the people, as the proper place of Collects: Being all of them (though in several branches and expressions) in effect thus much: That by the merciful Grace, Inspiration, Defence and Protection of God Almighty, we may be cleansed from our sins, may obey his Commandments, may live as Christians ought, not after the flesh, but after the Spirit, and so to be fitter to meet our blessed Lord at his second Advent to judge the world.
And this meditation of the second Advent of Christ is thought so seasonable in the last place; that some Churches instead of those Readings which we have for the last Sunday of this Time, make use of some other which concern the day of judgement: But our Church, as she hath good reason for her method, as we have seen. So is she not at all defective in her thoughts of Christ’s second coming: In time of Advent, and often afterwards she takes occasion to remember it, but most especially at this season. The last Gospel (except that which implyes a prophesie of Christ's advent) sets before us his raising up of one from the dead, a great ground of our faith and hope of a Resurrection. The Epistle that goes with it, and all the rest in a manner aim most evidently at this, the Quickning us to a life spiritual by the hopes of an eternal. The last Collect, with some other, is for the enjoyment of it according to God’s promises. So that we see the Church in her Meditations for the conclusion of the year, takes in that for her subject which is the close of our Creed, end of our Faith, and Crown of our Devotions: The Resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting’.
from A Rationale upon the Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England, 1655
by Anthony Sparrow, 1612-1685 (Bishop of Exeter, 1667-1676; Bishop of Norwich, 1676-1685)
We have done with dogma and divinity,
Easter and Whitsun past,
The long, long Sundays after Trinity,
Are with us at last;
The passionless Sundays after Trinity,
Neither feast-day nor fast.
Christmas comes with plenty,
Lent spreads out its pall,
But these are five and twenty,
The longest Sundays of all;
The placid Sundays after Trinity,
Wheat-harvest, fruit-harvest, Fall.
Spring with its burst is over,
Summer has had its day,
The scented grasses and clover
Are cut, and dried into hay;
The singing-birds are silent,
And the swallows flown away.
Post pugnam pausa fiet;
Lord, we have made our choice;
In the stillness of autumn quiet,
We have heard the still, small voice.
We have sung Oh where shall Wisdom?
Thick paper, folio, Boyce.
Let it not all be sadness,
Not omnia vanitas,
Stir up a little gladness
To lighten the Tibi cras;
Send us that little summer,
That comes with Martinmas.
When still the cloudlet dapples
The windless cobalt blue,
And the scent of gathered apples
Fills all the store-rooms through,
The gossamer silvers the bramble,
The lawns are gemmed with dew.
An end of tombstone Latinity,
Stir up sober mirth,
Twenty-fifth after Trinity,
Kneel with the listening earth,
Behind the Advent trumpets
They are singing Emmanuel’s birth.
John Meade Falkner, 1858-1932
Firmly I believe and truly
God is Three, and God is One;
And I next acknowledge duly
Manhood taken by the Son.
And I trust and hope most fully
In that manhood crucified;
And each thought and deed unruly
Do to death, as He has died.
Simply to His grace and wholly
Light and life and strength belong,
And I love supremely, solely,
Him the holy, Him the strong.
And I hold in veneration,
For the love of Him alone,
Holy Church as His creation,
And her teachings are His own.
And I take with joy whatever
Now besets me, pain or fear,
And with a strong will I sever
All the ties which bind me here.
Adoration aye be given,
With and through the angelic host,
To the God of earth and Heaven,
Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
Blessed John Henry Newman, 1801-1890
‘Ember week’s thanksgiving day! It is the night between Saturday and Sunday as in the spirit of the ancient Church we gather at St Peter’s, the station for all Christendom. For the Offertory we bring our tithe from the past quarter year (in certain communities and parishes wheat for the altar bread is presented) and joyously voice our gratitude over the spiritual harvest marking the close of Easter time.
“The charity of God is poured forth in our hearts, alleluia, by His Spirit who dwells within us, alleluia, alleluia”. These inspiring words from St Paul are, one may say, the Ite, missa est to Pentecost’s octave. They summarise all that the Church teaches concerning the Holy Spirit. The charity of God is divine sonship, is sanctifying grace, is spiritual transfiguration, is participation in Christ’s glorified life. The charity of God is the quintessence of our holy religion. To become ever more deeply rooted in the love of God is our life’s main task, and to enable us to attain this end is the liturgy’s raison d’etre’.
from The Church’s Year of Grace, 1953, by Pius Parsch, 1884-1954
Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole body of thy faithful people is governed and sanctified:
receive our supplications and prayers, which we offer before thee for all members of thy holy Church, that in their vocation and ministry they may truly and godly serve thee; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for the Ember Saturday in Whitsun Week from Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Many have wished that Our Blessed Lord had remained on earth, that we might have heard His voice, seen His compassionate eyes, and brought our children to be blessed by His hands. But He said “I can say truly that it is better for you I should go away; He who is to befriend you will not come to you unless I do go, but if only I make my way there, I will send Him to you”. If our Lord remained on earth, He would have been only a symbol to be copied – not a life to be lived. By returning to his heavenly Father, He could then send both from the Father and Himself the Holy Spirit that would make Him live on earth in His new Body, which is the Church. The human body is made up of millions of cells, and yet is one because vivified by one soul, presided over by a visible head, and governed by an invisible mind. So on Pentecost, the Apostles, who were like the cells of a body, became Christ’s Mystical Body, because vivified by His Holy Spirit, governed by one visible head, Peter, and presided over by one invisible head, Christ in heaven. Our glorious Church is not an organisation, but an organism. As our Lord once thought, governed, and sanctified through a human body, which He took from the womb of His blessed Mother, so now he teaches, governs, and sanctifies through his Mystical Body, the Church, which He took from the womb of humanity overshadowed by His Holy Spirit. Christ was infallible when He talked through a human body; He is still infallible when he teaches through a mystical Body. Christ sanctified when he forgave sins with human lips; He sanctifies still when he forgives sins through the power of His priests. Christ governed through His human Body, and he governs still. “He that heareth you, heareth Me”. As a drop of blood can live in the body, but the drop of blood cannot live apart from the body, so neither can any of us live the fulness of the Christ Life except in His Mystical Body, the Church’.
from The Meditations of the Fifteen Mysteries of the Rosary, 1944
by Venerable Fulton Sheen, 1895-1979
1. O thou who camest from above
the fire celestial to impart,
kindle a flame of sacred love
on the mean altar of my heart!
2. There let it for thy glory burn
with inextinguishable blaze,
and trembling to its source return
in humble prayer and fervent praise.
3. Jesus, confirm my heart’s desire
to work, and speak, and think for thee;
still let me guard the holy fire,
and still stir up the gift in me.
4. Ready for all thy perfect will,
my acts of faith and love repeat;
till death thy endless mercies seal,
and make the sacrifice complete.
Charles Wesley, 1707-1788
‘‘“Having accomplished the work that the Father had entrusted to the Son on earth, on the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit was sent to sanctify the Church forever, so that believers might have access to the Father through Christ in one Spirit. He is the Spirit of life, the fountain of water springing up to eternal life, the One through whom the Father restores life to those who are dead through sin, until one day he will raise in Christ their mortal bodies”.
In this way the Second Vatican Council speaks of the Church's birth on the day of Pentecost. This event constitutes the definitive manifestation of what had already been accomplished in the same Upper Room on Easter Sunday. The Risen Christ came and “brought” to the Apostles the Holy Spirit. He gave him to them, saying “Receive the Holy Spirit”. What had then taken place inside the Upper Room, “the doors being shut”, later, on the day of Pentecost is manifested also outside, in public. The doors of the Upper Room are opened and the Apostles go to the inhabitants and the pilgrims who had gathered in Jerusalem on the occasion of the feast, in order to bear witness to Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. In this way the prediction is fulfilled: “He will bear witness to me: and you also are witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning”.
We read in another document of the Second Vatican Council: “Doubtless, the Holy Spirit was already at work in the world before Christ was glorified. Yet on the day of Pentecost, he came down upon the disciples to remain with them for ever. On that day the Church was publicly revealed to the multitude, and the Gospel began to spread among the nations by means of preaching”.
The era of the Church began with the “coming”, that is to say with the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles gathered in the Upper Room in Jerusalem, together with Mary, the Lord’s Mother. The time of the Church began at the moment when the promises and predictions that so explicitly referred to the Counsellor, the Spirit of truth, began to be fulfilled in complete power and clarity upon the Apostles, thus determining the birth of the Church. The Acts of the Apostles speak of this at length and in many passages, which state that in the mind of the first community, whose convictions Luke expresses, the Holy Spirit assumed the invisible - but in a certain way “perceptible” - guidance of those who after the departure of the Lord Jesus felt profoundly that they had been left orphans. With the coming of the Spirit they felt capable of fulfilling the mission entrusted to them. They felt full of strength. It is precisely this that the Holy Spirit worked in them and this is continually at work in the Church, through their successors. For the grace of the Holy Spirit which the Apostles gave to their collaborators through the imposition of hands continues to be transmitted in Episcopal Ordination. The bishops in turn by the Sacrament of Orders render the sacred ministers sharers in this spiritual gift and, through the Sacrament of Confirmation, ensure that all who are reborn of water and the Holy Spirit are strengthened by this gift. And thus, in a certain way, the grace of Pentecost is perpetuated in the Church’.
from Dominum et Vivificantem: On the Holy Spirit in the Life of the Church and the World, 1986
by Pope St John Paul II, 1920-2005
We beseech thee, O Lord, that the Comforter who proceedeth from thee may enlighten our minds: and lead us, as thy Son hath promised, into all truth; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth wih thee, in the unity of the same Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for the Ember Wednesday in Whitsun Week from Divine Worship: The Missal.
O MOST HOLY SPIRIT, thou comest,
as once came Christ to Bethlehem,
to a most mean dwelling, even to me.
But thou canst cleanse and make it a temple,
THY temple, full with holiness, love and joy.
So come, O Spirit of GOD,
with GOD the Father’s love;
by Christ's Body and Blood;
in the new birth of thine own breath.
Come to cover my littlenesses and consume my sins,
to direct all my desires and doings;
come with counsel on my perplexities,
with light from thine everlasting scriptures;
come to reveal the deep things of GOD,
and what he prepareth for them that love him;
come with thy prayers into mine.
O most Holy Spirit,
possess me by thy peace,
illuminate me by thy flame,
enable me by thy power,
be made visible in me by thy fruits,
lift me by grace upon grace
from glory to glory,
O Spirit of the Lord;
who art with the Father and the Son one GOD,
world without end.
from My God, My Glory: Aspirations, Acts and Prayers on the Desire for God, 1959
by Eric Milner-White OGS CBE DSO, 1884-1963
Hark! how the merry bells ring jocund round,
And now they die upon the veering breeze
Anon they thunder loud
Full on the musing ear.
Wafted in varying cadence, by the shore
Of the still twinkling river, they bespeak
A day of jubilee,
An ancient holiday.
And lo! the rural revels are begun,
And gaily echoing to the laughing sky,
On the smooth shaven green
Resounds the voice of Mirth.
Alas! regardless of the tongue of Fate,
That tells them 'tis but as an hour since they
Who now are in their graves
Kept up the Whitsun dance.
And that another hour, and they must fall
Like those who went before, and sleep as still
Beneath the silent sod,
A cold and cheerless sleep.
Yet why should thoughts like these intrude to scare
The vagrant Happiness, when she will deign
To smile upon us here,
A transient visitor?
Mortals! be gladsome while ye have the power,
And laugh and seize the glittering lapse of joy;
In time the bell will toll
That warns ye to your graves.
I to the woodland solitude will bend
My lonesome way-where Mirth’s obstreperous shout
Shall not intrude to break
The meditative hour.
There will I ponder on the state of man,
Joyless and sad of heart, and consecrate
This day of jubilee
To sad reflection’s shrine;
And I will cast my fond eye far beyond
This world of care, to where the steeple loud
Shall rock above the sod,
Where I shall sleep in peace.
Henry Kirke White, 1785-1806
‘Today is the solemn eve of the great feast of Pentecost. A vigil always implies preparation, a time for cleansing and adorning the soul before the feast. Two themes occupy our attention: a) baptism; b) the graces of Pentecost.
In spirit we stand at the font of our baptism to stir up the graces that we once received. There were read the pointed words that St Augustine addressed to a class of neophytes. “Today with the greatest joy Mother Church will give birth to you through holy baptism. By the most sacred sign of the Cross she conceived you in her womb, there she nourishes you and joyfully brings you, her joyful, to the day of birth. In the holy bath of baptism true light is restored to you.
“Mother Church is not affected by the punishment inflicted upon Eve who must give birth to her children in pain and sorrow, nor do her children come into the world weeping as those of Eve; you are born with a cry of joy... All the mystery-laden rites that have been performed over you (during your catechumenate) and are still being performed by the ministry of ordained priests, such as the exorcisms, prayers, spiritual songs (psalms), insufflations, penitential garb, bowing the head, prostrations, even the very fear that you experience - all these things are food which should enliven you in the womb so that when reborn in baptism, Mother Church may present you as joyful children to Christ.
“You have already received the Creed; this Creed is your mother’s protection against the serpent’s venom. In John the apostle’s Apocalypse it is written that the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bring forth, that when she had brought forth he might be devour her son (12:5). You all know that the dragon is the devil; also, that the woman represents the Virgin Mary, who a virgin herself, gave birth to our Virgin Head. She, moreover, is a type of holy Church; for as Mary remained a virgin in giving birth to a Son, so the Church remains virginal although constantly giving birth to new members.
“You have vowed to renounce the devil, and in this vow that has been recorded not by men but by God and His angels, you have declared: I do renounce him. Renounce him not merely with words, but in your conduct too; not only with the sound of the voice, but in the acts of daily life; not by the speech of lips alone, but with the loud cry of action. Remember that you have joined battle with a wily, skilled, and inveterate enemy; once you have renounced him, never let him discover his own handiwork in you lest he claim the right to drag you away into servitude. For you shall be detected and brought to light, O Christian, whenever your deeds contradict your vow”.
This passage, so redolent with the spirit of ancient Christianity, affords a profound commentary on the rite of baptism and could well serve as the subject for a meditation. The Doctor of Hippo draws a parallel between baptism and birth, and with good reason, for it is baptism that imparts the divine life. At this time the ceremonies of baptism were not conferred as they are now, but in the course of several weeks or months. For that reason St Augustine likens the process to the origin and development of a human embryo. The individual was enrolled in the catechumenate with the sign of the Cross, an act that is compared to the conception of new life. After conception, life must grow in the womb and be nourished by its mother’s blood; this phase is represented by the rites and ceremonies which Mother Church performed over the neophyte during Lent. The solemn traditio of the Creed to those qualified for baptism constituted the antitoxin which counteracted the serpent's poison. A ringing exhortation to transform our baptismal vows into action brings the address to a close’.
from The Church’s Year of Grace, 1953, by Pius Parsch, 1884-1954
O Lord, have mercy upon us. O Christ, have mercy upon us. O Lord, have mercy upon us.
O Christ, hear us. O Christ, graciously hear us.
O God the Father of Heaven, Have mercy upon us.
O God the Son, Redeemer of the world, Have mercy upon us.
O God the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, Have mercy upon us.
Holy Trinity, Three Persons, and One God, Have mercy upon us.
Jesus, King of glory, Who, leading out Thy disciples as far as to Bethany,
didst, in their sight, ascend up into Heaven, Have mercy upon us.
Jesus, Lord and Christ, Have mercy upon us.
Jesus, Prince and Saviour, Have mercy upon us.
Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Have mercy upon us.
Jesus, Who didst ascend up far above all Heavens, that Thou mightest fill all things
and be Head over all things to Thy Church, Have mercy upon us.
Jesus, Who didst ascend up unto Thy Father and our Father,
unto Thy God and our God, Have mercy upon us.
Jesus, Who leddest captivity captive, and gavest gifts unto men, Have mercy upon us.
Jesus, Who art by the Right Hand of God exalted far above all principality and power,
and every name that is named, Have mercy upon us.
Jesus, at Whose Name every knee must bow, Have mercy upon us.
Jesus, Who art seated in glory at the Right Hand of the Father, Have mercy upon us.
Jesus, unto Whom all power is given in Heaven and in Earth, Have mercy upon us.
Jesus, Who in Thy sacred Manhood art crowned with glory and honour
at the Right Hand of the Majesty on High, Have mercy upon us.
Jesus, Who must reign until Thou hast put all enemies under Thy Feet,
and of Whose Kingdom there shall be no end, Have mercy upon us.
Jesus, Who art adored by all the Angels of God, Have mercy upon us.
Jesus, Who art anointed with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows, Have mercy upon us.
Jesus, Who art the happiness of the Blessed, and Whose Presence is Life, Have mercy upon us.
Jesus, Who hast opened the Kingdom of Heaven to all believers, Have mercy upon us.
Jesus, our High Priest for ever, the Mediator of the New Covenant,
Who hast entered into the true Holy of Holies, even Heaven itself, for us, Have mercy upon us.
Jesus, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world,
Who art the One Propitiation for our sins for ever, Have mercy upon us.
Jesus, Who ever livest to make intercession for us,
pleading evermore Thy Precious Body and Blood before the Father for us,
both openly on the one Altar in Heaven, and mystically on the many altars on earth,
Have mercy upon us.
Jesus, Who art able to save to the uttermost those that come unto God by Thee,
Have mercy upon us.
Jesus, Who didst send down Thy Holy Ghost on Thy disciples,
and dost promise that whatsoever we ask in Thy Name, Thou wilt do it, Have mercy upon us.
Jesus, Who art gone up into Heaven, and yet, by the power of the Holy Ghost,
art supernaturally present with us in the Sacrament of the Altar, Have mercy upon us.
Jesus, Who art gone to prepare a place for us, Have mercy upon us.
Jesus, Who wilt come again in glory to judge the world, Have mercy upon us.
Jesus, Who wilt receive Thine Own unto Thyself,
that they may be with Thee where Thou art, to behold Thy glory, Have mercy upon us.
By Thy glorious Resurrection and Ascension, Good Lord, deliver us.
By Thine all powerful Intercession, Good Lord, deliver us.
By Thy triumphant Majesty and Power, Good Lord, deliver us.
We sinners, do beseech Thee to hear us, O Lord Jesus, that we who are risen with Thee
may set our affections on things above, not on things on earth, Hear us, Good Lord.
That we, whom Thou hast blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places,
may be holy and without blame before Thee in love, Hear us, Good Lord.
That now, when the world seeth Thee no more, we see Thee by faith,
and live through Thee, Hear us, Good Lord.
That keeping Thy commandments, we may abide in Thy love, Hear us, Good Lord.
That through the power of the Comforter Thou wouldest abide with us,
and manifest Thyself to us, Hear us, Good Lord.
That the Spirit of Truth may testify of Thee, and may take of Thine and shew it unto us,
Hear us, Good Lord.
That in Thy spiritual presence with us our heart may rejoice with the joy
that no man taketh from us, Hear us, Good Lord.
That in Thee we may have peace, Hear us, Good Lord.
That in our tribulations which we have in the world we may be of good cheer,
knowing that Thou hast overcome the world, Hear us, Good Lord.
That, whilst we are in the world the Eternal Father may, through Thy intercession,
preserve from the evil, and sanctify us through His Word of Truth, Hear us, Good Lord.
That, as Thou and the Father art One, so all Thy people may inwardly
and outwardly be one in Thee, Hear us, Good Lord.
That the world may believe that the Father sent Thee,
and may know Thee and Thine Almighty love, Hear us, Good Lord.
That Thou wouldest draw all men unto thee, Hear us, Good Lord.
That Thou wouldest pour down plenteously Thy Holy Ghost upon Thy Church,
Hear us, Good Lord.
That Thou wouldest quicken the whole Body of Thy Church
by the power of Thy Holy Ghost, Hear us, Good Lord.
That Thou wouldest especially endue the Clergy with the Spirit of power,
and love, and of sound mind, and wouldest give them the graces of courage
and faithfulness and of fervent zeal, Hear us, Good Lord.
That Thou wouldest increase the number of Thy Ministers,
and wouldest stir up all Thy people to love and to good works, Hear us, Good Lord.
That Thou wouldest preserve Thy Church from the powers of the world,
and from all her enemies, Hear us, Good Lord.
That Thou wouldest give to Thy Church purity, unity, liberty, and peace,
and every needful means to do her proper work, Hear us, Good Lord.
That Thou wouldest shortly accomplish the number of Thine Elect
and hasten Thy Kingdom, Hear us, Good Lord.
O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world, O Jesus, spare us.
O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world, O Jesus, hear us.
O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world, O Jesus, have mercy upon us.
God is gone up with a merry noise. Alleluia! And the Lord with the sound of the trump. Alleluia.
Let us pray. Assist us mercifully, O Lord, in these our supplications: and grant,
that like as we do believe the Saviour of mankind to be seated with Thee in Thy Majesty,
so we may feel that He abideth with us, according to His promise, even unto the end of the world;
Through the Same Thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee,
in the Unity of the Holy Ghost, ever One God, world without end. Amen.
from The Treasury of Devotion: A Manual of Prayer for General and Daily Use, 1869
edited by TT Carter, 1808-1901
‘My Lord is gone up into heaven. I adore Thee, Son of Mary, Jesu Emmanuel, my God and my Saviour. I am allowed to adore Thee, my Saviour and my own Brother, for Thou art God. I follow Thee in my thoughts, O Thou First fruits of our race, as I hope one day by Thy grace to follow Thee in my person. To go to heaven is to go to God. God is there and God alone: for perfect bliss is there and nothing else, and none can be blessed who is not bathed and hidden and absorbed in the glory of the Divine Nature. All holy creatures are but the vestment of the Highest, which He has put on for ever, and which is bright with His uncreated light. There are many things on earth, and each is its own centre, but one Name alone is named above. It is God alone. This is that true supernatural life; and if I would live a supernatural life on earth, and attain to the supernatural eternal life which is in heaven, I have one thing to do, viz. to live on the thought of God here. Teach me this, O God; give me Thy supernatural grace to practise it; to have my reason, affections, intentions, aims, all penetrated and possessed by the love of Thee, plunged and drowned in the one Vision of Thee.
There is but one Name and one Thought above: there are many thoughts below. This is the earthly life, which leads to death, viz. to follow the numberless objects and aims and toils and amusements which men pursue on earth. Even the good that is here below does not lead to heaven; it is spoilt in the handselling; it perishes in the using; it has no stay, no integrity, no consistency. It runs off into evil before it has well ceased, before it has well begun to be good. It is at best vanity, when it is nothing worse. It has in it commonly the seeds of real sin. My God, I acknowledge all this. My Lord Jesu, I confess and know that Thou only art the True, the Beautiful, and the Good. Thou alone canst make me bright and glorious, and canst lead me up after Thee. Thou art the way, the truth, and the life, and none but Thou. Earth will never lead me to heaven. Thou alone art the Way; Thou alone.
My God, shall I for one moment doubt where my path lies? Shall I not at once take Thee for my portion? To whom should I go? Thou hast the words of Eternal Life. Thou camest down for the very purpose of doing that which no one here below could do for me. None but He who is in heaven can bring me to heaven. What strength have I to scale the high mountain? Though I served the world ever so well, though I did my duty in it (as men speak), what could the world do for me, however hard it tried? Though I filled my station well, did good to my fellows, had a fair name or a wide reputation, though I did great deeds and was celebrated, though I had the praise of history, how would all this bring me to heaven? I choose Thee then for my One Portion, because Thou livest and diest not. I cast away all idols. I give myself to Thee. I pray Thee to teach me, guide me, enable me, and receive me to Thee’.
Blessed John Henry Newman, 1801-1890
Lord Jesus! with what sweetness and delights,
Sure, holy hopes, high joys and quick'ning flights
Dost thou feed thine! O thou! the hand that lifts
To him, who gives all good and perfect gifts.
Thy glorious, bright Ascension (though removed
So many Ages from me) is so proved
And by thy Spirit sealed to me, that I
Feel me a sharer in thy victory.
I soar and rise
Up to the skies,
Leaving the world their day,
And in my flight,
For the true light
Go seeking all the way;
I greet thy sepulchre, salute thy grave,
That blest inclosure, where the angels gave
The first glad tidings of thy early light,
And resurrection from the earth and night.
I see that morning in thy Convert's tears,
Fresh as the dew, which but this dawning wears!
I smell her spices, and her ointment yields
As rich a scent as the now primrosed fields:
The day-star smiles, and light with thee deceased,
Now shines in all the chambers of the East.
What stirs, what posting intercourse and mirth
Of saints and angels glorify the earth?
What sighs, what whispers, busy stops and stays,
Private and holy talk fill all the ways?
They pass as at the last great day, and run
In their white robes to seek the risen Sun;
I see them, hear them, mark their haste, and move
Amongst them, with them, winged with faith and love.
Thy forty days more secret commerce here,
After thy death and funeral, so clear
And indisputable shows to my sight
As the Sun doth, which to those days gave light.
I walk the fields of Bethany which shine
All now as fresh as Eden, and as fine.
Such was the bright world, on the first seventh day,
Before man brought forth sin, and sin decay;
When like a virgin clad in flowers and green
The pure earth sat, and the fair woods had seen
No frost, but flourished in that youthful vest,
With which their great Creator had them dressed:
When Heav'n above them shined like molten glass,
While all the planets did unclouded pass;
And springs, like dissolved pearls their streams did pour,
Ne'er marred with floods, nor angered with a shower.
With these fair thoughts I move in this fair place,
And the last steps of my mild Master trace;
I see him leading out his chosen train,
All sad with tears, which like warm summer-rain
In silent drops steal from their holy eyes,
Fixed lately on the Cross, now on the skies.
And now (eternal Jesus!) thou dost heave
Thy blessed hands to bless these thou dost leave;
The cloud doth now receive thee, and their sight
Having lost thee, behold two men in white!
Two and no more: what two attest, is true,
Was thine own answer to the stubborn Jew.
Come then thou faithful witness! come dear Lord
Upon the clouds again to judge this world!
Henry Vaughan, 1621-1695
Salute the last, and everlasting day,
Joy at the uprising of this Sunne, and Sonne,
Ye whose just tears, or tribulation
Have purely washed, or burnt your drossy clay;
Behold the Highest, parting hence away,
Lightens the dark clouds, which he treads upon,
Nor doth he by ascending, show alone,
But first he, and he first enters the way.
O strong Ram which hast battered heaven for me,
Mild lamb, which with thy blood, hast marked the path;
Bright Torch, which shin’st, that I the way may see,
Oh, with thy own blood quench thy own just wrath.
And if the holy Spirit, my Muse did raise,
Deign at my hands this crown of prayer and praise.
John Donne, 1572-1631
O God, the King of glory, who hast exalted thine only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph unto thy kingdom in heaven: we beseech thee, leave us not comfortless; but send to us thy Holy Ghost to comfort us, and exalt us unto the same place whither our Saviour Christ is gone before; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for the Sunday after Ascension from Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘This beautiful collect, which was composed for the first Prayer Book of Edward VI in 1549, strikes exactly the right note. It combines the thought of Christ’s triumph with that of the descent of the Holy Spirit, which is just what is needed on the Sunday between Ascension and Whitsuntide; and it also addresses God as the King of Glory, which immediately introduces us to the proper atmosphere of this season. In all our thoughts at this time we are surrounded by tokens of God’s glory.
In the Hebrew this notion of glory is associated with the idea of weight, as we in our own idiom are accustomed to speak of “a man of substance”. It suggests a royal robe of state which is so magnificently embroidered and sewn with jewels as to be quite heavy. In the Greek, on the other hand, the word for glory is associated with the idea of opinion or reputation. A person’s glory is his fame, which surrounds him like an aura.
The idea of an aura takes us back to the Old Testament again, for there God’s glory is particularly associated with the Shekinah, the luminous cloud which was taken as a sign of his presence during the wanderings in the wilderness. One also remembers the mention of a cloud in the New Testament on the occasion both of our Lord's Transfiguration and of his Ascension. The brightness of the cloud is a symbol of God’s glory. Now at the Ascension Jesus has been caught up into it and exalted with great triumph into God’s Kingdom in Heaven. The address, then, of the collect reminds us of God’s glory.
The second petition of the collect is that we may be exalted into the same place whither our Saviour Christ is gone before. The symbolism of height slips in so easily that we hardly notice it. We normally think of what is better as being higher. And when we ask to be with Christ we inevitably ask to be taken “up”. Actually, of course, the soul or personality knows no such conditions of place. Our essential self may be just as easily as in a space-ship travelling to the moon. Our prayer really means that we wish to be in closest possible communion with him at every moment, sharing with him the consciousness of his triumph over every human disability'.
from Reflections on the Collects, 1964
by William Wand KCVO, 1885-1977 (Bishop of London 1945-1955)
‘The word “Comforter”, used in earlier versions of the Bible to describe the office of the Holy Spirit, has changes its meaning. In doing so, it has given us a false picture, at the back of our minds, about the switch-over from Ascension Day to Whitsunday. We think of the Apostles as bereaved of their Master and needing consolation; we almost think of it, heaven help us, a pis aller. That is not what our Lord says. “It is better for you that I should go away; he who is to befriend you will not come to you unless I do go; but if only I make my way there, I will send him to you”. The Ascension is represented as a means to an end; the end, eminently desirable, is the comforting or strengthening of the Apostles to fulfil their world-mission. Consolation does not enter into the picture at all.
In reality, we ought not to think of Ascension Day and Whitsunday as two separate feasts celebrating two separate events. Only one event is in question, the sending of a Divine embassy and its successful accomplishment, with an interval of nine days' prayer, the first and greatest of all novenas.
Why must our Lord be taken up before the Holy Spirit can come down? It is not for us to ask: we only know it was part of the Divine plan. Was? Or is? In this world of probation, God does not want things to be made too easy for us; we are not to be spoon-fed. The disciples must be weaned away from their dependence upon the visible, tangible presence of their Master, must learn to stand, Spirit-filled, on their own feet. And we, when prayer seems difficult, are not to conclude that God has taken away his Holy Spirit from us. Rather, our Lord has gone away so as to send the Holy Spirit to us, insensibly present, yet life-giving. And even, on a more human plane, when we lose those we loved - is it possible we are being comforted?'
from Lightning Meditations, 1959, by Mgr Ronald Knox, 1888-1957
O God, who as at this time didst teach the hearts of thy people by sending to them the light of thy Holy Spirit:
grant to us by the same Spirit to have a right judgement in all things, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
‘Christ’s Ascension is... not a spectacle for the disciples but an event in which they themselves are included. It is a sursum corda, a movement toward the above into which we are all called. It tells us that man can live toward the above, that he is capable of attaining heights. More: the altitude that alone is suited to the dimensions of being human is the altitude of God himself. Man can live at this height, and only from this height do we properly understand him. The image of man has been raised up, but we have the freedom to tear it down or to let ourselves be raised. We do not understand man when we ask only where he comes from. We understand him only when we also ask where he can go. Only from his height is his essence really illuminated. And only when this height is perceived does there awaken an absolute reverence for man that considers him still holy even in his humiliation. Only from there can we really learn to love the human condition in ourselves and in the other’.
Pope Benedict XVI
‘We are told in an Old Testament tale, how an angel of God having appeared to man disappeared again by going up in the flame from the altar. And in the same way Elijah, when he could no more be found, was believed to have gone up on the crests of flaming horses. The flame which carried Christ to heaven was the flame of his own sacrifice. Flame tends always upwards. All his life long Christ's love burnt towards the heart of heaven in a bright fire, until he was wholly consumed in it, and went up in that fire to God. The fire is kindled on our altars, here Christ ascends in fire; the fire is kindled in the Christian heart, and we ascend. He says to us, Lift up your hearts; and we reply, We lift them up unto the Lord’.
from The Crown of the Year: Weekly Paragraphs for the Holy Sacrament, 1952
by Austin Farrer, 1904-1968
Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God: that like as we do believe thy Only Begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ
to have ascended into the heavens; so we may also in heart and mind thither ascend, and with him continually dwell; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘The Rogation Days should be carefully kept as days of intercession for God’s blessing on the fruits of the earth. The Litany should be said before the principal Eucharist on each day, blue being the colour for these two services. The late Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Benson, in urging the better observance of these days, sanctioned special collects, and recommended the use of the Litany. In the new book of 1927 the Rogation Days are the only days on which the Litany is absolutely required.
Archbishop Benson also urged that “Where the Perambulation of Parish Bounds is still observed and suitable, I hope that it will always be with such religious services as are happily used in many places”. Unfortunately, the old processions had become associated with tin cans (both empty and full) and with much unseemliness. But in country places the people welcome a revival of the old religious processions; and the parson who omits them loses a great opportunity of touching and helping his flock. In large towns also processions become very popular.
As late as about 1675, at Wolverhampton, “the sacrist, resident prebendaries, and members of the choir, assembled at Morning Prayers on Monday and Tuesday in Rogation Week, with the charity children, bearing long poles clothed with all kinds of flowers then in season, and which were afterwards carried through the streets of the town with much solemnity, the clergy, singing men and boys, dressed in their sacred vestments, closing the procession, and chanting in a grave and appropriate melody the Canticle Benedicite omnia opera”. The boundaries of the parish were marked at many points by Gospel trees where the Gospel was read.
Here, then, we touch hands with tradition, and the parson may easily accommodate it to his own opportunities. For the Psalms, &c., to be used he can turn to the old authorities, and will find that Psalms ciii and civ, together with the Litany, are “by law appointed”’.
from The Parson’s Handbook, 12th edition, 1932, by Percy Dearmer, 1867-1936
O Almighty God, who hast created the earth for man, and man for thy glory: mercifully hear the supplications of the people, and be mindful of thy covenant; that both the earth may yield her increase, and the good seed of thy word may bring forth abundantly, to the glory of thy holy Name; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘This is a penitential season of fasting and intercession for the fruits of the earth. The celebration of the Eucharist preceded by the Litany would seem the most suitable observance for the three days. In addition the connexion between processions and penitential seasons must not be forgotten. The more public this procession the better. In some country places the route might follow the bounds of the parish, stations being made fairly frequently by the allotments or other crops. In town parishes a convenient route varying, if desired, from year to year, might be planned with stations at suitable places.
“Stations” may take the form of very short informal services, e.g. a reading from Scripture, followed by a collect, the Lord’s Prayer, and possibly a hymn. At one or more important stations an address should be given. The proper place is before the Eucharist, but in practice the evening will be found to be the most suitable time for this Procession.
All who take part in the procession - and it should include all the congregation - will meet in Church for a few initial prayers and, if desired, a hymn. As it is extremely difficult to sing hymns in an outdoor Procession, psalms and litanies should be chosen in preference or hymns sung by a few voices with a popular refrain in which all may join. Psalms ciii, civ, cxiv, and cxv, the Lent and Advent proses in the English Hymnal, the Prayer Book Litany, and some metrical Litany will be found suitable. When the Procession returns to the Church, a hymn, collect, and blessing might terminate the service.
The most convenient order of Procession will be as follows: Verger with mace, Churchwardens with staves, Cross-bearer, Servers with lanterns on poles, Priest, Banner-bearer and the Passiontide or some very simple banner, members of the congregation in fours, Choir boys, Chanters, Choir men, Clergy in choir habit, and the remaining members of the congregation’.
from A Directory of Ceremonial: Part II, Alcuin Club Tracts XIX, 1930
Almighty God, Lord of heaven and earth: we humbly pray that thy gracious providence may give and preserve to our use the harvests of the land and of the seas, and may prosper all who labour to gather them; that we, who constantly receive good things from thy hand, may always give thee thanks; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
Heavy and sad the Church must go:
Full weary are her latter days,
And she must hush the voice of praise
While tears of penance flow.
And she must fast, though by her side
The Bridegroom yet on earth doth move;
And fear must be instead of love
For her own children’s pride.
Yet, holy Mother! Lent is past:
And long ago the Easter sun
Into the middle sky hath run;-
Wherefore this second fast?
Mother! with us the Lord doth bide;
Yet but a little while He stays,-
Then for three dim and lonely days
Why keep us from His side?
He said we should not fast when He
Came down to live with us below:
Then, holy Mother! why forego
Our ancient liberty?
When thou wert in thy virgin prime,
Those forty days through all the earth
Thy heart did swell with festal mirth-
It was thy bridal time.
Talk not, my son, of early days:
My precious stones were passing fair,
My life was Sacrament and prayer,
My unity was praise.
These glories now are well-nigh past:
My son! the world is waxing strong;
The day is hot; the fight is long,
And therefore do I fast.
And ye are weak, and cannot bear
Full forty days of Easter mirth:
And nought is left unstained of earth,
But penance, fast, and prayer.
Oh! weary is my stay below;
And thus with strong and earnest cry,
As each Ascension-day glides by,
I fain with Him would go.
Then watch and fast, like saints of yore;
These three new days perchance may bring
The earlier advent of our King,
And we shall fast no more!
Frederick Faber, Cong. Orat., 1814-1863
I was honoured to be invited to preach today at the annual May Devotion to Our Lady at the Manchester Oratory (St Chad’s, Cheetham Hill Road). The above photos show Our Lady of Walsingham on her brancard, and the permanent statue of Our Lady and Child which graces the entrance to the Lady Chapel. The Mass setting (Gloria, Sanctus-Benedictus, and Agnus Dei) was the Missa O Soberana Luz by the Portuguese composer Felipe de Magalhães (1571-1652), and the Offertory motet was the Ave Maria by Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971). Two traditional Marian hymns were sung, Bring flow'rs of the rarest and I’ll sing a hymn to Mary, as the outdoor procession moved to the gardens of the church and the final decade of the glorious mysteries of the Holy Rosary was recited, with the Regina Caeli concluding the Devotion. Later in the week the children of the parish school will participate in the traditional May crowning of the Image.
Bring flow’rs of the rarest, bring blossoms the fairest,
From garden and woodland and hillside and dale;
Our full hearts are swelling, our glad voices telling
The praise of the loveliest flow’r of the vale!
O Mary we crown thee with blossoms today!
Queen of the Angels and Queen of the May.
O Mary we crown thee with blossoms today,
Queen of the Angels and Queen of the May.
Their Lady they name thee, their Mistress proclaim thee,
O grant that thy children on earth be as true
As long as the bowers are radiant with flowers,
As long as the azure shall keep its bright hue.
O Mary we crown thee…
Sing gaily in chorus, the bright angels o’er us
Re-echo the strains we begin upon earth;
Their harps are repeating the notes of our greeting,
For Mary herself is the cause of our mirth.
O Mary we crown thee…
May is Mary’s month, and I
Muse at that and wonder why:
Her feasts follow reason,
Dated due to season -
Candlemas, Lady Day;
But the Lady Month, May,
Why fasten that upon her,
With a feasting in her honour?
Is it only its being brighter
Than the most are must delight her?
Is it opportunest
And flowers finds soonest?
Ask of her, the mighty mother:
Her reply puts this other
Question: What is Spring? -
Growth in every thing -
Flesh and fleece, fur and feather,
Grass and greenworld all together;
Throstle above her nested
Cluster of bugle blue eggs thin
Forms and warms the life within;
And bird and blossom swell
In sod or sheath or shell.
All things rising, all things sizing
Mary sees, sympathising
With that world of good,
Their magnifying of each its kind
With delight calls to mind
How she did in her stored
Magnify the Lord.
Well but there was more than this:
Spring’s universal bliss
Much, had much to say
To offering Mary May.
Bloom lights the orchard-apple
And thicket and thorp are merry
With silver-surfed cherry
And azuring-over greybell makes
Wood banks and brakes wash wet like lakes
And magic cuckoocall
Caps, clears, and clinches all -
This ecstasy all through mothering earth
Tells Mary her mirth till Christ’s birth
To remember and exultation
In God who was her salvation.
Gerard Manley Hopkins SJ, 1844-1889
Fr Lee Kenyon