Bookmark and Share

The Ascension of Our Lord

Solemnity - 40 days after Easter Sunday (ie Thursday of Week 6 of Eastertide) & 10 days before the Feast of Pentecost
(some countries have boringly switched this to the following Sunday)
2nd Glorious Mystery of the Rosary

Pope St John Paul II gave us his encyclical Ut Unum Sint on the Feast of the Ascension 1995.

Pope Francis's words on this feast day in: 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014 & 2013.
Papa Benedict XVI's words in: 2012, 2011 (in Croatia), 2010, 2009 (in Monte Cassino), 2008, 2007, 2006 (in Poland) & 2005.
St John Paul II's words in: 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001 (at end of Extraordinary Consistory), Jubilee 2000, 1999, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1985 (in Luxembourg) & 1979 (at the English College in Rome).

3 2us by Fr Iain Matthew OCD       
"The ascension of Christ means the passage of Christ into the dimension of eternal love. He paid the price for that, on the Cross, He loved to the end, even when they were crucifying Him, even when I was crucifying Him. So now He truly can live love to the end. In His sacred humanity He can enter into that dimension of being which is pure love, pure hospitality, pure welcome. He can fill the universe with His presence because there is nothing in the universe that He has not loved and redeemed."

3 2us by Father Tony Nye SJ      
"The key note of the feast of Our Lord’s Ascension is hope, our hope of heaven. That was expressed in the opening prayer of this Mass: “For the ascension of Christ your Son is our exaltation and where the head has gone before in glory the body is called to follow in hope.' His presence and company day by day on earth, so that we may be in his company in heaven."

Evangelium by Fr Andrew Pinsent      
"What is most significant about the Ascension is that Jesus' human nature is also described as sitting at the right hand of God. In an image given to us by St Catherine of Siena, it is as if the human nature of Jesus Christ has become like a great bridge, stretching from our present earthly life into the presence of God in heaven."

Evangelium by Fr Andrew Pinsent      
"The Ascension helps to teach us about our true and final home, but Scripture also suggests that it brings us spiritual benefits as well. We do not fully understand these benefits but we are told that Christ has entered the heavenly sanctuary as our High Priest."

Pope St John Paul II's Catechesis on Mission
General Audience, Wednesday 23 May 1979 - also in French, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. Tomorrow the period of forty days ends, which separate the moment of the resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ from his Ascension. This is also the moment of the definitive detachment/separation of the Master from the Apostles and disciples. In such an important moment, Christ entrusts to them the mission that he himself has received/received from the Father and has begun/began on earth: "As the Father has sent me, even so I send you" (Jn 20, 21), he said to them during the first encounter/meeting after the resurrection. In/At this moment they were/are in Galilee according to what Matthew writes: "Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshipped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age'" (Mt 28, 16-20).

The words just cited/quoted contain the so-called missionary mandate. The duties that Christ hands down to the Apostles define simultaneously the missionary nature of the Church. This truth found its particularly full expression in the teaching of the Second Vatican Council. "The Church that lives in time is by its nature missionary, inasmuch as it is from the mission of the Holy Spirit that it, according to the plan of God the Father, derives its own origin" (Ad Gentes, 2). The Church, born of this salvific mission, finds itself/is found/is always "in statu missionis" (in a state of mission), and is always on the way. Such a/This condition reflects the interior forces of faith and hope that animate the apostles, disciples and confessors of Christ the Lord throughout all the centuries. "In these places, quite a number/a good many do not become Christians only because they lack those to make them Christians. It often comes into my mind to run and shout here and there through/in the academies of Europe... and to turn to/address those who show more doctrine than charity with these words: 'Oh, how great is the number of souls excluded from heaven through/by your fault!'... Many of these/them instead should exercise/train themselves to/practise listening to what the Lord says to them. Then they would exclaim with the heart/heartily: 'Here I am, Lord; what do you want me to do? Send me wherever you want"' (St Francis Xavier, "Lettera 5 a S. Ignazio Loyola" of 1544).

In our age these forces called by name by the Council, must ring out anew/again. The Church must renew her missionary conscience, which in the apostolic and pastoral practice of our times certainly demands/requires many new applications; among them, a renewed missionary activity of the Church motivates this activity even more deeply and postulates it even more strongly.

2. Those whom the Lord Jesus sends — both those who, after the ten days following the Ascension, will come out of/emerge from the cenacle/Upper Room of Pentecost, and all the others; generation after generation up to our time(s) — carry/bring with them a testimony which is the first source and the fundamental content of evangelization: "You will have the force/power of the Holy Spirit who will descend upon you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all of Judea and Samaria and to the extreme boundaries/ends of the earth" (Acts 1, 8). They are appointed/charged to teach by giving testimony/bearing witness. "Contemporary man listens more willingly to witnesses than teachers, or if he listens to teachers he does so because they are witnesses" (Paul VI, Address to Members of the "Consilium de L.aicis", 2 October 1974; cf Evangelii Nuntiandi, 41).

When, both in the Acts of the Apostles and in the Letters,
we re-read the registration/recording of apostolic catechesis, we not how exactly the first executors of Christ's apostolic mandate incarnated this task/appointment/job/duty in life. St John Chrysostom says: "If the yeast/leaven, mixed with the flour, does not transform the whole mass into the same quality, will it really have been a ferment? Do not say that you cannot draw others along; in fact, if you are a true Christian, it is impossible that this does not happen/for this not to happen" (St John Chrysostom, In Acta Apostolorum Homilia XX, 4)

Whoever/The one who carries out the work of evangelization is not primarily/first of all a teacher. He is a messenger. He behaves like a man to whom a great mystery has been entrusted. And at the same time like one who has personally discovered the greatest treasure. like the one "hidden in a field" in/of Matthew's parable (cf. 13:44). The state of his soul, then, is marked also by readiness to share it with others. Even more than readiness, he feels an interior imperative, on the line of that magnificent "urget" of Paul (cf. 2 Cor 5:14).

We all discover this interior character by reading and re-reading the works of Peter, Paul, John and others, in order to know from their works, from the words spoken, from the letters written, who the Twelve really were. The Church was born"in statu missionis" in living men.

And this missionary character of the Church was subsequently renewed in other individual men, from generation to generation. We must walk in the steps of these men to whom the Gospel was entrusted, in the different ages, as the work of salvation of the world. We must see them as they were internally; as the Holy Spirit moulded them; as love of Christ transformed them. Only then can we see from close up that reality which the missionary vocation conceals.

3. In the Church, where every faithful is an evangelizer, Christ continues to choose the men he wants "that they might be with him so that he might send them to preach to the nations" (Ad Gentes, 23). In this way the story of the sending of the Apostles becomes the history of the Church from the first to the last hour.

The quality and the number of these vocations are the sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit, because it is the Spirit "who shares his gifts as he wills for the common good": for this supreme good he "implants in the hearts of individuals a missionary vocation" (ibid.). It is certainly the Spirit who inspires and moves the men chosen, in order that the Church can assume her evangelizing responsibility. The Church being, in fact, the mission incarnate, she reveals this incarnation of hers first of all in the men of the mission: "As the Father has sent me, even so I send you" (Jn 20:21).

In the Church, the presence of Christ, who calls and sends as during his mortal life, and of the Pentecostal Spirit who inflames, is the certainty that missionary vocations will never be lacking.

These people "marked and designated by the Spirit" (cf. Acts 13: 2) "have a special vocation, whether they are natives of the place or foreigners, priests, religious, or lay people. Having been sent by legitimate authority they go forth in faith...'' (Ad Gentes, 23). The arising and multiplication of people consecrated for life to the mission is also an indication of the missionary spirit of the Church: from the general missionary vocation of the Christian community there springs up the special and specific vocation of the missionary. Vocation, in fact, is never in the singular, but touches the man through the community.

The Holy Spirit, who inspires the vocation of the individual, is the same who "raises up in the Church Institutes who take on the duty of evangelization, which pertains to the whole Church, and make it as it were their own special task" (ibid.). Orders, Congregations and Missionary Institutes have represented and lived the missionary commitment of the Church for centuries, and they still live it fully today.

The Church, therefore, confirms her trust and her mandate to these Institutions, and greets with joy and hope the new ones that arise in the Communities of the missionary world. But they, in their turn, being the expression of the missionary spirit also of the local Churches from which they have sprung, in which they live, and for which they operate, intend to dedicate themselves to the formation of missionaries who are the real agents of evangelization on the line of Christ's Apostles. Their number must not diminish; on the contrary, it must adapt itself to the immense necessities of the not distant times in which the peoples will open up to Christ and to his Gospel of life.

Furthermore, no one can fail to see a sign of the new missionary age which the Church is expecting and preparing. The local Churches, old and new, are vivified and shaken by a new anxiety, that of finding specifically missionary forms of action with the sending of their own members to the nations, either on their own account or cooperating with the missionary Institutes. The mission of evangelization "which falls (precisely) on the whole Church" is increasingly felt as the direct commitment of the local Churches, which therefore give their priests, men and women religious and laity to the mission fields. Pope Paul VI clearly saw and described it: "An evangelizer, the Church begins by evangelizing herself... That means, in a word, that she always needs to be evangelized if she wishes to keep freshness, élan and strength to proclaim the Gospel."

Consequently, every Church will have to put itself in the perspective of that apostolic vocation which Paul recognized himself as having among the Gentiles and because of which he groaned: "Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel" (1Cor 9:16).

4. The first Sunday in May was dedicated particularly to prayer for vocations.

We have prolonged this prayer for the whole month, commending this problem, which is so important, to Mary, Mother of Christ and of the Church.

Now in the period of the Ascension of the Lord, preparing for the solemnity of Pentecost, we wish to express in this prayer the missionary character of the Church. Therefore we also ask that the grace of missionary vocation, granted to the Church from apostolic times throughout so many centuries and so many generations, may ring out in the modern generation of Christians with a new force of faith and hope: "Go... and make disciples of all nations" (Mt 28:19)."

Greetings to various groups of pilgrims

"Un cordialissimo benvenuto rivolgo ai numerosi pellegrinaggi italiani, tanto bene organizzati dalle rispettive Comunità diocesane e guidati dai loro Pastori: in particolare saluto i fedeli delle diocesi di Monopoli e Conversano, di Matera e Irsina, di Tursi-Lagonegro, di Lanciano e Ortona, ed estendo il mio pensiero altrettanto affettuoso al pellegrinaggio condotto dai Padri Passionisti per ricordare il centenario della nascita di Santa Gemma Galgani. Carissimi Fratelli e Sorelle, siamo nel clima spiritualmente stimolante della stagione liturgica pasquale che culmina con le feste dell’Ascensione di Gesù e quella della Pentecoste, le quali segnano il trionfo finale della missione salvifica di Cristo e la coronano con l’invio dello Spirito Santo per la sua azione illuminante e protettrice della Chiesa: ciascuno si impegni a rivivere questi misteri dandone testimonianza con fede viva e ardente carità, seguendo l’esempio di Santa Gemma, fiore gentile di questa diletta Italia."

"Desidero ora riservare un particolare saluto ai giovani qui presenti: sono studenti provenienti da varie parti d’Italia e sono ragazzi e ragazze, che recentemente hanno ricevuto la Prima Comunione o il Sacramento della Cresima e che qui sono convenuti per esprimere al Papa i loro sentimenti di fede. Siate i benvenuti, carissimi. Auspico di cuore che gli anni, fiorenti e promettenti, della vostra giovinezza non passino invano per voi, e di cuore prego affinché nella fede ardente e nell’amicizia con Cristo sappiate trovare la forza per essere sempre all’altezza delle responsabilità che vi attendono nella vita. Vi accompagni la mia benedizione."

"Nel porgere il mio saluto particolarmente affettuoso agli ammalati, vorrei invitarli a riflettere un istante su Gesù condannato a morte. Chi era Gesù? Era l’innocente per natura; era il Verbo di Dio Incarnato; era il Messia, il supremo benefattore dell’umanità! Eppure, venne condannato morte, e a una morte terribile, perché dal suo sacrificio redentore dovesse sorgere la nostra vita. Prendete anche voi la vostra sofferenza, non come una condanna, ma come un atto di amore redentore. Per mezzo dell’“Apostolato della sofferenza”, anche voi siete in prima linea nell’opera della conversione e della salvezza delle anime. Vi sostenga la mia benedizione, che di cuore estendo a quanti vi assistono."

A voi, sposi novelli, va ora il mio saluto e il mio augurio. Grazie della vostra presenza e della vostra cordialità! Vi ricordo, come pensiero per le vostre nozze, la prima delle Beatitudini: “Beati i poveri in spirito”. Che cosa significa essere “poveri in spirito”? Significa essere umili di fronte alla Maestà suprema di Dio; significa accettare la sua volontà e, quindi, la sua legge morale, come mistero di amore e di salvezza, a cui bisogna abbandonarsi con totale fiducia e con coraggio; significa saper trovare la gioia nelle piccole cose ben fatte con pazienza e senza pretese. Cercate di vivere con generosità questa Beatitudine, e gusterete un poco nella vostra casa la felicità del Regno dei Cieli!"

"Una particolare parola di saluto rivolgo ora ben volentieri ai folti gruppi di pellegrini provenienti dalle diocesi di Bari, di Todi, di Bergamo, di Vercelli: guidati dai loro rispettivi Vescovi, essi sono venuti a questa udienza per testimoniare il loro affetto al Papa e per trarre dall’incontro gioioso con tanti fedeli, di ogni parte d’Italia e del mondo, incitamento e sprone ad una sempre più generosa adesione a Cristo. Figli carissimi, nell’esprimervi il mio apprezzamento e la mia gratitudine per i sentimenti che la vostra presenza e il vostro entusiasmo manifestano, desidero esortarvi alla perseveranza nei buoni propositi, fatti in occasione della Pasqua: continui ad essere, la vostra, una vita da risorti con Cristo. “Comportatevi come uomini liberi, non servendovi della libertà come di un velo per coprire la malizia, ma come servitori di Dio” (1Pt 2,16). Accompagno questi voti con la mia paterna Benedizione Apostolica, che volentieri estendo a tutti i vostri familiari."

"Un cordiale benvenuto, poi, alle Dirigenti dei Convegni “Venerabile Maria Cristina”, qui presenti per porgere al Papa il loro filiale omaggio e il dono di arredi sacri, raccolti in tutte le regioni d’Italia, per le chiese povere di Roma. Grazie di cuore, carissime figlie, per questo attestato di fede e di pietà cristiana, mentre esprimo l’augurio di sempre felici incrementi per la vostra benemerita Istituzione."

"Un saluto particolarmente sentito rivolgo a voi, bambini, fanciulli e giovani, che avete desiderato di incontrarmi. Vi vedo sempre volentieri perché voi siete, nella società, il fiorire del cuore e della mente; il vostro terreno è sempre fertile. Guardate attorno a voi questo maggio, così bello e così ricco: è la vostra immagine. Conservate a lungo questo luminoso sorriso, con la grazia e la gioia. Ancor più teneramente saluto e quasi abbraccio voi, bambini e bimbe della Prima Comunione, che ancora recate il profumo del primo incontro con Cristo. Nessuna Chiesa al mondo è bella e santa come voi, che siete diventati i tabernacoli viventi di Dio. Vi auguro che nessun vento possa rapirvi i doni, portati nel vostro cuore da Gesù."

"In mezzo a questa cara assemblea, non mancano ammalati e sofferenti: desidero ricordarli e salutarli tutti con particolare affetto, perché essi meritano sempre speciale attenzione, perché hanno bisogno di conforto, perché sono una singolare e preziosa presenza di Dio nel nostro mondo. La mia preghiera non dimentica quanti, nella intera famiglia umana, portano croci pesanti, nel corpo e nello spirito: tutti siano aiutati e rasserenati dalla grazia del nostro divin Salvatore, di cui vuole essere pegno la mia benedizione.

"La mia preghiera, il mio saluto, il mio augurio vanno anche agli sposi novelli, presenti a questo incontro. Questa loro presenza è senza dubbio un gentile atto di filiale affetto verso il Papa; ma è anche un atto di fede: dal Vicario di Gesù Cristo essi attendono un incoraggiante e corroborante auspicio per il loro viaggio nella vita. Siate sempre, tra voi, generosi e sereni, cari sposi, sempre ancorati alla potenza della grazia divina e all’aiuto della Madre di Dio Maria Santissima, che onoriamo con tanta gioia nel mese di maggio. Vi accompagni la mia benedizione.

"Among the many people whom I would like to greet personally there is a group of Christian Brothers who are in Rome for a course of spiritual renewal. I want you and all your confrères to know of my profound esteem for your vocation on behalf of the Christian education and training of the young. But even more important than what you do is what you are: men who have generously accepted a call, Brothers who are totally consecrated to the Lord Jesus, and committed to his Church and to his Gospel. Your first criterion of success is your capacity to love—to love Jesus Christ, his Father and his brethren. Your deepest fulfilment is in holiness of life. The Pope is for you, and Christ is with you — today and always!"

Pope St Leo the Great - Sermon 1 on the Ascension, 2-4:

"The days between the Lord's resurrection and his ascension, my dear brethren, did not pass away to no purpose: great mysteries were established in them, and great truths revealed.

During these days fear of the horror of death was taken away, and the immortality of the body as well as the soul was made known. During them the Lord breathed on all his apostles and filled them with the Holy Spirit; and to Saint Peter more than the other apostles he entrusted the care of the Lord's sheepfold, having already entrusted to him the keys of the kingdom.

It was during this time that the Lord joined the two disciples as their companion on the road; and by rebuking them for their timid and fearful hesitation he dispelled the darkness of doubt from all our minds. Their enlightened hearts received the flame of faith; cool before, they glowed when the Lord unfolded the scriptures to them. As they ate with him, their eyes were opened in the breaking of bread - opened much more happily to the revealed glory of our nature than were the eyes of the first members of our race who were filled with shame at their sin.

Throughout this time between the Lord's resurrection and ascension, by dear brethren, the Lord in his providence fulfilled one purpose, taught one lesson, set one consideration before the eyes and hearts of his followers; that the Lord Jesus Christ, who was truly born, truly suffered and truly died, should be recognized as truly risen.

The apostles and all the disciples had been filled with fear by his death on the cross and their faith in the resurrection had been hesitant; but now they gained such great strength from seeing the truth, that when the Lord went up to heaven, far from feeling sadness, they experienced a great joy. 

Indeed they had a great and mysterious cause for rejoicing. For in the sight of the vast company of the blessed, human nature was exalted above the dignity of all the creatures of heaven, passing beyond the ranks of the angels, being raised above the high seat of the archangels; to receive an elevation that would have no limit until it was admitted into the eternal Father's dwelling, to share the glorious throne of him with whose nature it had been united in the person of the Son."

Blessed John Henry Newman - Sermon 'The Spiritual Presence of Christ in the Church' (PPS, vol 6, 10):

"Christ's going to the Father is at once a source of sorrow, because it involves his absence; and of joy, because it involves his presence. And out of the doctrine of his Resurrection and Ascension, spring those Christian paradoxes, often spoken of in Scripture, that we are sorrowing, yet always rejoicing; “as having nothing, yet possessing all things” (2Cor 6,10).

This, indeed, is our state at present; we have lost Christ and we have found him; we see him not, yet we discern him. We embrace his feet (Mt 28,9), yet he says, "Touch Me not" (Jn 20,17). How is this? it is thus: we have lost the sensible and conscious perception of him; we cannot look on him, hear him, converse with him, follow him from place to place; but we enjoy the spiritual, immaterial, inward, mental, real sight and possession of him; a possession more real and more present than that which the Apostles had in the days of his flesh, because it is spiritual, because it is invisible.

We know that the closer any object of this world comes to us, the less we can contemplate it and comprehend it. Christ has come so close to us in the Christian Church (if I may so speak), that we cannot gaze on him or discern him. He enters into us, he claims and takes possession of his purchased inheritance; he does not present himself to us, but he takes us to him. He makes us his members... We see him not, and know not of his presence, except by faith, because he is over us and within us. And thus we may at the same time lament because we are not conscious of his presence... and may rejoice because we know we do possess it... , according to the text, "Whom having not seen... you love; in whom, though now you see him not, yet believing, you rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls" (1Pt 1,8-9)."