May 24, 2017: THE VIGIL OF ASCENSION
May 24, 2017: THE VIGIL OF ASCENSION
“A little while, and, you shall not see me... because I go to the Father!”
(St. John, xvi. 16)
The third morning of the Rogation Days is over; the hour of noon has come, and from it we begin to count the hours of the last day which the Son of God is to spend upon earth in his visible presence. During these three days, we seem to have forgotten that the time of separation is close upon us; but no,—the thought of our coming trial has often presented itself, and the humble supplications we have been presenting to heaven, in union with holy Church, have prepared us to celebrate the last mystery achieved by our Emmanuel on earth.
The Disciples are all assembled in Jerusalem. They are grouped around the Blessed Mother, in the Cenacle, awaiting the hour when their divine Master is to appear to them for the last time. Recollected and silent, they are reflecting upon all the kindness and condescension he has been lavishing upon them during the last forty days; they are ruminating upon the instructions they have received from his sacred lips. They know him so well now!—they know in very deed that he came out from the Father (St. John, xvii. 8). As to what regards themselves, they have learned from him what their mission is:—they have to go, ignorant men as they are, and teach all nations; (St. Matth, xxviii. 19) but, O sad thought! he is about to leave them; yet a little while, and, they shall not see him! (St. John, xvi. 16)
What a contrast between their sorrow and the smiling face of nature, which is decked out in her best, for she is going to celebrate the triumphant departure of her Creator! The earth is blooming with the freshness of her first-fruits, the meadows have put on their richest emerald, the air is perfumed with blossom and flower; and all this loveliness of Spring is due to the bright Sun that shines upon the earth to give her gladness and life, and is privileged to be, both by its kingly splendour and the successive phases of its influence upon our globe, the grand symbol of our Emmanuel's passage through this world.
Let us go back in thought to the dismal days of the winter solstice. The sun looked then so pallid; his triumph over night was slow and short; he rose, and sank again, often without our seeing him; his light had a certain timid reserve about it, and his heat was, for weeks, too feeble to rescue nature from the grasp of frost. Such was our divine Sun of Justice, when first he came on earth; his rays made but little way in the world's thick gloom; he kept his splendour in, lest men should be dazzled by too sudden a change from darkness to light. Like the material sun, he gained upon the world by slow advances; and even so, his progress was shrouded by many a cloud. His sojourn in the land of Egypt, his hidden life at Nazareth, were long periods of his being wholly lost sight of. But when the time came for him to show himself, his glory shone forth, with all its magnificence, upon Galilee and Judea;—he spoke as one having power (St. Matth, vii. 29), his works bore testimony to his being God (St. John, x. 25), and the people hailed him with the cry of Hosannah to the Son of David!
He was almost at the zenith of his glory, when suddenly came the eclipse of his Passion and Death. For some hours, his enemies flattered themselves that they had for ever put out his light. Vain hope!—on the third day, our divine Sun triumphed over this final obstruction; and now stands in the firmament, pouring out his light upon all creation, but warning us that his course is run. For he can never descend; there is no setting for Him;—and here finishes the comparison between himself and the orb of day. It is from heaven itself that he, our beautiful Orient, is henceforth to enlighten and direct us, as Zachary foretold at the birth of the Baptist. (St. Luke, i. 79) The Royal Prophet, too, thus exultingly sang of him: He hath rejoiced, as a giant, to run the way: his going out is from the highest heaven, and his circuit even to the summit thereof: and there is no one that can hide himself from his heat (Ps, xviii. 6,7).
This Ascension, which enthroned our Emmanuel as the eternal centre of light, was, by his own decree, to take place on one of the days of the month which men call May, and which clothes, in its richest beauty, the creation of this same God, who, when he had made it, was pleased with it, and found it very good (Gen, i, 31). Sweet month of May!—not gloomy and cold like December, which brought us the humble joys of Bethlehem; not lowering and clouded like March, when the Lamb was sacrificed on Calvary;—but buoyant with sunshine, and flowers, and life, and truly worthy to be offered, each year, to Mary, the Mother of God,—for it is the month of her Jesus' triumph.
O Jesus! our Creator and Brother! our eyes and heart have followed thee from thy first rising upon our world. We have celebrated, in the holy Liturgy, each of thy giant steps. But our very seeing thee thus ever growing in beauty and brightness, told us, that thou must one day leave us, to go and take possession of the place that was alone worthy of thee,—the throne at the right hand of thine Eternal Father. The splendour that has been on thee since thy Resurrection, is not of this world; thou canst no longer abide among us; thou hast remained here below, for these forty days, only for the sake of consolidating thy work: and to-morrow, the earth that has been blessed with thy presence for three and thirty years, will be deprived of its privilege and joy. We rejoice at thy approaching triumph, as did thy Blessed Mother, thy Disciples, Mary Magdalene and her companions; but we are sad at the thought of losing thee,—and thou wilt forgive us. Thou wast our Emmanuel, our God with us; henceforth, thou art to be our Sun, our King, reigning from the throne of heaven, and we shall no longer be able to hear thee, nor see thee, nor touch thee, Word of Life! (I St. John, i. 1) Still, dearest Jesus, we say to thee with all our hearts: Glory and love be to thee, for thou hast treated us with infinite mercy! Thou owedst nothing to us; we were unworthy of a single look from thee; and yet, thou camedst down to this sinful earth, thou hast dwelt among us, thou hast paid our ransom by thy Blood, thou hast re-established Peace between God and man. Oh, yes! it is most just that thou shouldst now return to Him that sent thee. (I St. John, xvi. 5) The Church, thy Spouse, consents to her exile; she only thinks of what is most glorious to her Jesus; and she thus addresses thee, in the words of the Canticle: Flee away, O my Beloved! and be swift as the roe and as the young hart, and ascend to the mountains, where the flowers of heaven exhale their sweet fragrance! (Cant, viii. 14) Can we, poor sinners as we are, refuse to imitate this loving resignation of her, who is thy Spouse, and our Mother!
Taken from: The Liturgical Year - The Paschal Time, Vol. III, Dublin, Edition 1871.