Monday Within the Octave of the Ascension
|O rex gloriæ, Domine virtutum, qui triumphator hodie super omnes cœlos ascendisti, ne derelinquas nos orphanos; sed mitte promissum Patris in nos Spiritum veritatis, alleluia.||O King of glory, Lord of hosts, who didst this day ascend in triumph above all the heavens! leave us not orphans, but send upon us the Spirit of truth, promised by the Father, alleluia.|
The Kingship over men is not the only diadem given to our Emmanuel at his Ascension. The Apostle expressly tells us that he is, moreover, the Head of all Principality and Power. Noble indeed is man; but nobler far are the glorious Choirs of the Angelic Hierarchy. We have already seen that in the great trial whereby God tested the love of his Angels, many rebelled and were cast into hell; the rest, who were faithful, entered at once into the possession of their sovereign good, and began, round the throne of God, their ceaseless hymns of adoration, love, and thanksgiving.
But a portion of their happiness was reserved till the fulfillment of one of God’s decrees. Laden as they are with the most magnificent gifts, they await another; it is to be the completion of their joy and glory. God revealed them, at the first instant of their coming into existence, that he intended to create other beings, of a nature inferior to their own; and that of these beings, who were to be composed of body and soul, there should be one whom the Eternal Word would unite to himself in unity of Person. It was also revealed to them that this Human Nature (for whose glory and for God’s all things were made) was to be the first-born of every creature;that all Angels and men would have to bend their knee before him; that after suffering countless humiliations on earth, he would be exalted in heaven; and finally, that the time would be when the whole hierarchy of heaven, the Principalities and Powers, yea, even the Cherubim and Seraphim, would have him placed over them as their King.
The Angels, then, as well as Men, looked forward to the coming of Jesus. The Angels awaited him as he that was to confer upon them their final perfection, give them unity under himself as their head, and bring them into closer union with God by the union of the divine and created Natures in his own Person. As to us Men, we awaited him as our Redeemer and our Mediator: as our Redeemer, because sin had closed heaven against us, and we needed one that would restore us to our inheritance; as our Mediator, because it was the eternal decree of God to communicate his own glory to the human race, and this was to be by union with himself. While, therefore, the just ones on earth, who lived before the Incarnation, were pleasing to God by their faith in this future Redeemer and Mediator—the Angels in heaven were offering to the Divine Majesty the homage of their proffered service of this Man-God, their future King, who, in virtue of the eternal decree, was ever present to the Ancient of Days.
At length, the fullness of time came, and God, as the Apostle expresses it, brought into the world his first-begotten, the prototype of creation. The first to adore the Newborn King were not men, but the Angels, as the same Apostle assures us. The Royal Prophet had foretold that it would be so. And was it not just? These blessed Spirits had preceded us in their longings, not indeed of a Redeemer—for they had never sinned—but of a Mediator, who was to be the link of their closer union with infinite Beauty—the object of their eternal delight—in a word, the realization of the want there seemed to be even in Heaven, that is, of Jesus’ taking and filling up the place destined for him.
Then was accomplished that act of adoration of the Man-God, which was demanded of the Angels, at the first moment of their creation, and which, according to its being complied with or refused, decided the eternal lot of those noble creatures. With what love did not the faithful Angels adore this Jesus, the Word made Flesh, when they beheld him in his Mother’s arms at Bethlehem? With what transport of joy did they not announce to the Shepherds, and to us through them, the Glad Tidings of the Birth of our common King?
As long as he lived upon this earth and submitted to every humiliation and suffering in order to redeem us from sin and make us worthy to become his Members, the Blessed Spirits ceased not to contemplate and adore him. The Ascension came; and from that day forward, it is on the throne prepared at the Father’s right hand that they behold and adore their Lord and King. At the solemn moment of Jesus’ Ascension, a strange joy was felt in each choir of the heavenly hierarchy, from the burning Seraphim to the Angels who are nearest to our own human nature. The actual possession of a good, whose very expectation had filled them with delight, produced an additional happiness in those already infinitely happy Spirits. They fixed their enraptured gaze on Jesus’ beauty, and were lost in astonishment at seeing how Flesh could so reflect the plenitude of grace that dwelt in that Human Nature as to outshine their own brightness. And now, by looking on this Nature(which, though inferior to their own, is divinized by its union with the Eternal Word), they see into further depths of the uncreated Sea of Light. Their love is more burning, the zeal is more impetuous, their hymns are more angelic; for, as the Church says of them, the Angels and Archangels, the Powers and Dominations, the Cerubim and Seraphim, praise the majesty of the Father through his Son, Jesus Christ: per quem majestatem tuam laudant Angeli.
Add to this the joy these heavenly Spirits must have experienced at seeing the immense multitude that accompanied Jesus from earth to heaven. According to their respective merits, they were divided among the various choirs, and placed on thrones left vacant by the fallen angels. Their bodies are not yet united to their souls; but is not their flesh already glorified in that of Jesus? When the time fixed for the general Resurrection comes, the trumpet of the great Archangel will be heard, and then these happy souls will again put on their ancient vesture, the mortal made immortal. Then will the holy Angels, with fraternal enthusiasm, recognize in Adam’s features a likeness of Jesus, and in those of Eve a likeness of Mary, and the resemblance will even be greater than it was when our First Parents were innocent and happy in the Garden of Eden. Come quickly, O thou glorious day, whereon the bright mystery of the Ascension is to receive its final completion, and the two choirs of Angels and Men are to be made one in love and praise under the one Head, Christ Jesus!
It is St. Ambrose who is to help us today, by the following beautiful Hymn, to celebrate the mystery of the triumph of our Human Nature in Jesus. The Hymn is inserted in the Breviary of Milan.
|Optatus votis omnium
Sacratus illuxit dies
Quo Christus, mundi spes, Deus,
Conscendit cœlos arduos.
|The sacred Day, longed for by us all, hath shone upon us: the Day whereon Christ, our God, the hope of the world, ascended to the highest heavens.|
|Ascendens in altum Dominus,
Propriam ad sedem remeans,
Gavisa sunt cœli regna,
|When our Lord ascended on high—returning to his rightful throne—the kingdom of heaven rejoiced, for it was the return of the Only Begotten of the Father.|
|Magni triumphum prælii!
Mundi perempto principe,
Patris præsentat vultibus
Victricis carnis gloriam.
|O triumph of the great battle! Having defeated the prince of this world, Jesus presents to his Father the Flesh that had won the glorious victory.|
|Est elevatus nubibus
Et spem fecit credentibus,
Quem protoplastus clauserat.
|He was raised up on a cloud, and opening the gate of heaven, which our First Parent had closed against us, he inspired believers with hope.|
|O grande cunctis gaudium!
Quod partus nostræ Virginis,
Post sputa, flagra, post crucem,
Paternæ sedi jungitur.
|What a joy was this to all mankind, that the Son of our Virgin-Mother—after being spit upon, and scourged, and crucified—was placed upon his Father’s throne!|
|Agamus ergo gratias
Nostræ salutis vindici,
Nostrum quod corpus vexerit
Sublimem ad cœli regiam.
|Let us, then, give thanks to him that avenged us and wrought our salvation, for that he took our Flesh and made it dwell in the heavenly Courts above.|
|Sit nobis cum cœlestibus
Commune manens gaudium,
Illis quod se præsentavit,
Nobis quod se non abstulit.
|Let there be a lasting fellowship of joy between the Angels and us—they rejoice because he offered himself to their delighted gaze; we, because he ceased not to be our Brother.|
|Nunc provocatis actibus
Christum exspectare nos decet
Vitaque tali vivere,
Quæ possit cœlos scandere.
|It behoves us now, by the practice of virtues of which he has set us the example, to await our union with Christ, and so live as to merit our ascension into heaven.|
|Gloria, tibi Domine,
Qui scandis super sidera,
Cum Patre et Sancto Spiritu
In sempiterna sæcula.
|Glory be to thee, O Lord, who ascendest above the stars! and to the Father, and to the Holy Ghost, for everlasting ages. Amen.|
We may use this Prayer of the Mozarabic Breviary, wherewith to close the day.
|Christe Dei virtus, et Dei sapientia, qui propter nos, et nostram salutem descendens e cœlis, humani generis carne vestiri dignatus es, ut dignissima societate nos tua Deitate vestires, et quod mortale descendendo susceperas, immortalitati ascendendo donares; tribue nobis interventu solemnitatis hodiernæ, qua te cœlos ascendentem et sequi cupimus et gaudemus, ut benignissimæ dispensationis hujus munera cognoscentes, reddamus pietati tuæ quod solum possumus, vota laudum; exspectantes secundi adventus tui æternorum solatia gaudiorum.||O Jesus! the power and wisdom of God! who, coming down from heaven for our sake and for our salvation, deignedst to clothe thyself in human flesh, that, by a most merciful union, thou mightest clothe us with thy divinity, and that, by ascending into heaven, thou mightest enrich with immortality the mortality thou assumedst by descending upon our earth;—grant, we beseech thee, by the merit of this day’s solemnity (whereon we rejoice at and desire to imitate thine Ascension) that we may acknowledge the favor of this most loving dispensation, by paying to thy mercy the only homage in our power—the offering of our praise, and awaiting thy second coming which is to console us with joys eternal.|
This text is taken from The Liturgical Year, authored by Dom Prosper Gueranger (1841-1875)