Homily given at Pusey House, Oxford on Saturday 4th June 2011 by Fr Armand de Malleray, FSSP at the Ordinariate Sung Mass of the Ascension.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
We find ourselves in this time of transition between the Ascension of Our Lord and the sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. I wonder what must have been the feelings and thoughts of the apostles and disciples during these ten days. Humanly speaking, they are likely to have experienced sadness, if not anxiety. Our Blessed Lord, Whom they had seen dead on Good Friday, and alive again on Easter day; Who had appeared to them on frequent occasions during forty days and had taught them many things necessary for their formation as the first bishops in the history of the Church – Our Lord was no longer visibly present among them. What would happen to them? How would they cope? Would they be up to the task? How weak they must have felt, perhaps helpless – as only from Pentecost would they be confirmed in grace and strengthened by the Holy Spirit.
Such plausible human anxiety however was only superficial. Indeed they knew, from the very promise of Our Lord, that He would not let them as orphans, but would send them a Defender, the Paraclete, Third Person of the Holy Trinity. Thus, deep in the souls of the apostles and disciples shone a very intense joy, quite mysterious also, as its motive originated ages and ages before. It was that promise made by God to Adam and Eve after the original sin, that He would send them a Redeemer, that ‘Seed of the Woman’ Who would crush the head of the serpent. Their human race would thus be brought back in full harmony with God its Maker. The most tragic divorce between the human creatures and their Creator would be repaired, and mankind would be elevated to an even higher station, closer to God, and indeed made divine. This is what had begun at the Incarnation, when the Second Person of the Holy Trinity had assumed our human nature, body and soul. Now the Ascension fulfils and brings to perfection this elevation of mankind, as Our Lord’s humanity is gloriously ascending into heaven, where it is introduced in the very bosom of that personal Communion of Love, Whom we call the Holy Trinity.
As the theologians say, Our Lord’s humanity sacrificed in his Passion is the ‘instrumental cause’ of our Redemption. With that same Body previously scourged and crucified, and now adorned with the stigmata as glorious titles of our salvation, Our Lord Jesus now sits at the right hand of the Father Almighty. As God, the Word Eternal had never departed from his celestial abode, even when assuming our human nature. But as Man, Our Saviour now jubilantly reigns, surrounded by the multitudes of the just whom He had on Easter delivered from limbo, and with even more numerous choirs of angels. Such is the apostles’ certainty on this day of the Ascension. And they exult, knowing that a true member of their human race – and its perfect Exemplar – now enjoys permanent and stable dwelling in heaven. They realise that, after centuries of painful expectation since the creation of the first Adam, our human nature is eventually vindicated against the devil, our redemption being now fulfilled in the enthronement of its Head, Jesus Christ, new Adam, eternal Type of our race redeemed.
I would like to conclude by focusing on a Person for whom the Ascension has an even deeper significance if possible. It is Our Blessed Lady ever Virgin, the Mother of God and the new Eve. On that day, She sees the reward for all the sufferings of Her divine Son, which She generously and motherly shared from Bethlehem to Calvary. She knows that as a consequence of her ‘Fiat’, it has pleased God to form in her virginal womb this very Body later pierced for our Salvation, and this precious Blood ultimately shed for our of our Redemption – now glorified and forever worshipped. During these ten days until Pentecost when the Holy Spirit will descend upon the embryonic Church, the Holy Virgin Mary embodies the hope, faith and charity later propagated in the mystical Bride of Christ her Son. More than ever the apostles look at Her for guidance in fidelity, understanding that She has already received the same Holy Spirit on the day of her Annunciation, and rejoicing that She sits in their midst as the Most High prepares to pour His graces now on their entire collegium, of which She is the humble and immaculate Heart.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, amen.