Bulletin -May 2017

May 2017
“So the faith was planted: so must it be restored”
Eight Pond Place – Oyster Bay, NY 11771

The Ascension of Our Lord
Taken from a sermon by The Most Rev. Clarence Kelly
Copyright © 2003 The Most Rev. Clarence Kelly

 

…..Forty days after the Resurrection of Christ from the dead, the eleven Apostles gathered together in the Upper Room. It was the same Upper Room in which they had assembled on Holy Thursday night for the Last Supper. As they “were at table,” Our Lord appeared to them. He gently and lovingly scolded them for their previous lack of belief “and hardness of heart,” as St. Mark tells us in his Gospel, “because they did not believe them who had seen Him after He was risen again.”

…..He scolded them to strengthen them. He scolded them to prepare them for His immanent departure from this earth. For after His ascension into heaven, He wanted them to remember their previous lack of belief so that they would not repeat it. He ate a last meal with them. Then He lead them to the Mount of Olives as He had led them to the Mount of Olives on the night of the Last Supper. On that night it was to suffer, but on Ascension Day it was to enter into His glory.

…..Before leaving them He gave to the Apostles their commission and their mission. It is the mission that was effectively abandoned by the hierarchy of the new church at the Second Vatican Council. “He said to them: Go ye into the whole world and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall be condemned.” (Mark 16:15-16) The mission was to convert the world. It was not to be converted by the world. After giving them this great commission to convert the world, He ascended into Heaven where He sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead, as we say in the Apostles’ Creed.

…..The Gospel says of Our Lord that He “was taken up into Heaven.” But this is not to be understood in the sense that some other power than His own caused Him to ascend, for He ascended by His own power.

…..When the prophet Elias ascended into Heaven, it was by way of a chariot of fire. In the fourth book of Kings, chapter 2 verse 11, we read about the prophet Elias and his disciple, Eliseus. It says: “And as they went on, walking and talking together, behold a fiery chariot, and fiery horses parted them both asunder: and Elias went up by a whirlwind into Heaven.” Similarly, when the holy man Henoch ascended, it was not by his own power. Thus we read in the book of Ecclesiasticus chapter 44 verse 16: “Henoch pleased God, and was translated into paradise, that he may give repentance to the nations.” In other words, Henoch will return to the earth before the end of the world to “give repentance to the nations,” just as Elias the prophet will return. The mission of Elias will be to convert the Jews to the Catholic Faith. Thus, in both cases – that of Elias and that of Henoch – these men ascended to paradise by a power other than their own, for they were not divine and did not have glorified bodies and souls.

…..When the human body and soul are glorified – as will be the case at the end of the world for those who die in the state of grace – the body is in complete subjection to the soul, even as regards such things as movement. Thus, one who has a glorified body and soul could ascend by his own power. However, the prophets did not have glorified souls and bodies, so they could not ascend by their own power.

…..Speaking of the Ascension of Our Lord into Heaven, Pope St. Gregory the Great says: “we do not read of our Saviour being lifted up either in a chariot or by angels, because He who had made all things was taken up above all things by His own power.” Yet, it was not only by His divine power that Our Lord ascended, but also in virtue of His created, glorified soul. St. Thomas says: “Therefore Christ ascended into Heaven by His own power, first of all by His divine power, and secondly by the power of His glorified soul moving His body at will.” For, as we said, in the case of a glorified soul and body “the body is . . . entirely dominated by the soul” and in such a case the “entire nature [of the glorified body] is utterly under the control of the spirit.” Thus, Our Lord ascended into Heaven by His own power – that is to say by His divine power and by the power of His created, glorified human soul.

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…..St. Luke says: “And it came to pass, whilst He blessed them, He departed from them . . . And they adoring went back into Jerusalem with great joy.” (Luke 24: 51-52) On the Mount of Olives, on the spot where Our Lord ascended into heaven, St. Helen built a basilica, after the pattern of that of the Holy Sepulchre. It was built in such a way that it was open to the sky.

…..What, then, must the Ascension of Our Lord into Heaven have been like? The Gospel does not say it, but we may well imagine the Apostles lining up one by one to embrace Our Lord and to be embraced by Him before His departure. For even though they were grown men, they were to Him, as He affectionately called them at the Last Supper, His little children. They were soon to be great men with a divine commission to convert the entire world. Thus, while there was an element of sadness, the occasion was truly a joyful one. That is why St. Luke says: “And they adoring [Him] went back into Jerusalem with great joy.” (Luke 24:52) They were men with a mission even as they awaited the descent of the Holy Ghost on Pentecost. They had witnessed the triumph of Christ over death and over the elements. They beheld His victories, and they were filled with joy as they awaited the coming of the Holy Ghost.

…..We commemorate the departure of Our Lord on Ascension Day by extinguishing the Paschal Candle which is a symbol of Him, and we, too, await the coming of the Holy Ghost. We await the time of the glorious rise of the Catholic Church by the power of the Holy Ghost from the ruins of the Second Vatican Council. By any human  standard  it  would  seem  that the gates of hell have prevailed. I say “it would seem,” because it is impossible that the gates of hell could actually prevail against the Church. The Church is a divine institution. It is the Mystical Body of Christ. The soul of the Church is the Holy Ghost. Thus, the Church shall rise again, like the mythical phoenix from the ashes. Everything Our Lord said He would do, He did. Every prophecy He made will be fulfilled. When He said that He would be with His Church to the end of the world, He meant it.

…..So we await the day of the glorious restoration of the Church, which, I believe, is not far off. As we do, let us never forget that Our Lord Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He is the most important Person in our lives. He is Our Lord and Our Savior. He came into this world to atone for the sins of men. He came to open the gates of Heaven. He came to provide us with the means to save our souls, and to save our bodies, as well, for all eternity.

…..As He ascended into Heaven, so shall He come in glory at the end of the world to judge the living and the dead. That day will come. When it comes and when it has passed, we will all look back on it. When we do, the only thing that will matter is whether we did or did not die in the state of grace. For at that time, as we look back on the end of the world, we will be gloriously reigning with Christ, or we will be separated from Him forever. We do not want to be separated from Him, nor will He permit it to happen, if we receive the Sacraments regularly and faithfully.

…..Thus, the Church bids us to place all things in this perspective – the perspective of eternity. She does this as she prays in the collect of the Mass for Ascension Day: “Grant, we beseech Thee, almighty God, that we who believe Thine only-begotten Son, our Redeemer, to have this day ascended into Heaven, may ourselves dwell in spirit amid heavenly things. Through the same [Christ] our Lord.”

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