Ascension of our Lord

Giotto's The Ascension ca.1305

We celebrated joyfully the solemn feast of The Ascension of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel of Buckfast Abbey. We sang "Alleluia! sing to Jesus" to Hyfrydol, Vidi Aquam for the sprinkling, the Missa de Angelis Gloria, "Rejoice the Lord is King" to Gopsal for the offertory, and "Praise my soul the King of Heaven", after mass proper we sang English version of the Regina Caeli in front of the statue of Our Lady.

The Abbey Church is currently undergoing lots of works. The whole of the North aisle and transept are boarded off, and there is lots of cement dust in the air. The cleaners must be working on overdrive to keep things clean. In an effort to reduce growth of this dust on precious parts of the Abbey furniture various items have been boxed in perspex, e.g. the font and reredos.

The Statue of Our Lady is now situated on the south of the Altar in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel and it is a pleasure to sing the Regina Caeli there each Sunday.

Sermon by Fr Ian

"God goes up with shouts of joy..."

I wonder how we should imagine the Ascension in our thoughts? A friend told me that during a pilgrimage to Holy Land the local guide led them up the mount of ascension to point to an indentation in the rock saying that our pushed off the ground with such might at the Ascension that He left behind a foot shaped indentation in the rock! Should one imagine a kind of Superman?

Or at the Anglican Shrine Church in Walsingham, if memory serves me correctly, if one looks up in the Ascension Chapel one sees a pair of feet sticking through the ceiling. Again I am not sure it is very helpful.

The word "ascension" is used not to suggest that Jesus went into the sky like a rocket, but that the risen Christ was raised, body and soul, to a higher and ultimate form of existence. "Why? Surely the resurrected Lord had acheived all that was necessary for salvation?"  Well the answer is "not quite".

Yes, Christ had risen victorious from death and evil, but His human nature was still attached to the Earth and had yet to reach the climax of existence - the fullness of life in the Trinity.

So what we celebrate is the climax of salvation history; for in Christ, humanity was brought into the Godhead!  In His divine nature Christ is always at the right hand of the Father, but in emptying Himself of His equality with God and the taking on of humanity - Christ walks humbly through His human existence so enabling us to follow. So ultimately, in the Ascension, after conquering death, the enemy and evil, He draws His humanity (body and soul) to the right hand of the Father.

So we can now grasp that one of the Persons of the Trinity, the Son of God, the eternal Word, Jesus Christ, is in His human nature as well as His divine nature, fully part of the divine perfect communion.

So this celebration reveals to us the ultimate destination for our following of Christ. It is not a disembodied existence we look forward to, but a resurrected bodily existence in the fullness of the communion of God.

It is in the context of this aspect of the Ascension, that we also remember that Christ sent His disciples out into the world: making disciples of the nations and baptising in "the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." Our mission is in the context of knowing our ultimate destruction and longing for all people to find it in Christ.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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