‘I adore Thee, O my Lord, as is most fitting, for Thou art gone to heaven to take my part there, and defend my interests. I have one to plead for me with the Lord of all. On earth we try to put ourselves under the protection of powerful men when we have any important business on hand; we know the value of their influence, and we make much of any promise they make us. Thou art omnipotent, and Thou dost exert Thy omnipotence for me. There are millions of men in the world: thou didst die for them all; but Thou livest for Thy people, whom Thou hast chosen out of the world. And still more marvellously dost Thou live for Thy predestinate. Thou hast engraven them upon the palms of Thy hands; their names are ever before Thee. Thou countest the full roll of them; Thou knowest them by heart: Thou orderest the crown of the world for them; and, when their number shall be completed, the world shall end.
For me, Thou hast chosen me for present grace – and thus Thou hast put me in the way for future glory. I know perfectly well that, whatever be Thy secret counsels about me, it will be simply, entirely, most really my own fault if I am not written in Thy book. I cannot understand Thee: I can understand myself enough to know and be sure of this. Thou hast put me on such especial vantage ground that the prize is almost in my hand. If I am at present in the society of Angels or Saints, it is hard if I cannot make interest with them that the fellowship begun between them and me should endure. Men of the world know how to turn such opportunities to account in their own matters. If Thou hast given me Mary for my Mother, who, O my God! is Thine, cannot I now establish, as it were, a family interest in her, so that she will not cast me off at the last? If I have the right to pray and the gift of impetration, may I not thereby secure that perseverance to the end, which I cannot merit, and which is the sign and assurance of my predestination? I have in my hands all the means of that which I have not, and may infallibly obtain, even though I cannot certainly secure it’.
Blessed John Henry Newman, 1801-1890
‘On Ascension Day in the fourth century AD at Jerusalem, Christians processed to the Mount of Olives to hear readings about Jesus’ ascension into heaven. But they actually kept the feast at Bethlehem on the same day as Pentecost. The two go together. The ascended Lord has not deserted his people; the great work is to begin with the coming of the spirit.
St Luke records that Jesus appeared to his disciples for forty days after his resurrection, teaching them about the kingdom of God. He was then taken up out of their sight and appeared no more. St Mark says virtually the same and explains that Jesus went to sit on the right hand of God. St Matthew simply records the last appearance of Jesus to the Eleven, and Jesus’ charge to them to go and make disciples of all nations. We might be tempted to look upon this event as Jesus saying goodbye for the last time. It is Matthew who brings us back to earth with the words of Jesus, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world”. As one preacher put it, the Ascension is not the farewell of the risen Lord, but his move “out of the here and into the everywhere”. The localised mission is at an end. Jesus has moved on a fairly small stage, as have the apostles. Now, the whole world is the field of their mission, and the risen Jesus is no more confined to the shores of Galilee or the secret places of Jerusalem but is present in every corner of the earth as he is today’.
John Halliburton, 1935-2004 (Canon Chancellor, St Paul’s Cathedral, London, 1989-2003)
‘If we compare the indifference shown by the Catholics of the present age for the Rogation Days, with the devotion wherewith our ancestors kept them, we cannot but acknowledge that there is a great falling off in faith and piety. Knowing, as we do, the importance attached to these Processions by the Church, we cannot help wondering how it is that there are so few among the Faithful who assist at them. Our surprise increases when we find persons preferring their own private devotions to these public Prayers of the Church, which to say nothing of the result of good example, merit far greater graces than any exercises of our own fancying.
The whole Western Church soon adopted the Rogation Days. They were introduced into England at an early period; so, likewise, into Spain, and Germany. Rome herself sanctioned them by her own observing them; this she did in the 8th century, during the Pontificate of St Leo the Third. She gave them the name of the Lesser Litanies, in contradistinction to the Procession of the 25th of April, which she calls the Greater Litanies. With regard to the Fast which the Churches of Gaul observed during the Rogation Days, Rome did not adopt that part of the institution. Fasting seemed to her to throw a gloom over the joyous forty days, which our Risen Jesus grants to his Disciples; she therefore enjoined only abstinence from flesh-meat during the Rogation Days. The Church of Milan, which, as we have just seen, so strictly observes the Rogations, keeps them on the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday after the Sunday within the Octave of the Ascension, that is to say, after the forty days devoted to the celebration of the Resurrection.
If, then, we would have a correct idea of the Rogation Days, we must consider them as Rome does, - that is, as a holy institution which, without interrupting our Paschal joy, tempers it. The purple vestments used during the Procession and Mass do not signify that our Jesus has fled from us, but that the time for his departure is approaching. By prescribing Abstinence for these three days, the Church would express how much she will feel the loss of her Spouse, who is so soon to be taken from her’.
from The Liturgical Year by Dom Prosper Guéranger OSB, 1805-1875
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.
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.
Fr Lee Kenyon
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