The Ascension of Our Lord – Day of Joy
“Whither is thy Beloved gone, O thou most beautiful among women, whither is thy Beloved turned aside, and we will seek Him with thee” [Cant. 5:17].
The forty days which intervened between the resurrection and our Lord’s ascension were days of light and grace to the Blessed Virgin. He was with His apostles, teaching them the things which pertained to the kingdom of God, and laying the foundations of His Church. The holy Mother was constantly at His side, and to her He opened the mysteries of revelation. If communion with Him had been full of bliss in the days of childhood and growing manhood, much more was it blissful now when man’s redemption was purchased and He had put on the body of glory. Who can ever know, save Jesus and Mary, the hours of joy which during these forty days were her blessed reward for labor and suffering? Earth seemed to have receded in the far distance, and Heaven to have opened itself upon her transported soul. But labor was not over. The Virgin had still her work to do, as her hand was to be employed in the foundation of the Church, and she was to enter upon her dominion as queen of the apostles. Our blessed Lord taught His Mother the whole of His will, and guided her in the office to which she was appointed. He opened His whole heart to her, and left her for a few years on earth to be the support of His disciples. She was to be His representative in the perplexities of the infant Church.
At last the time came when He was to leave the world and to ascend to His Father. Mary was to witness the glory and to participate in its blessedness. When the morning came He led her, accompanied by the apostles and many of His disciples, to the mount of Olives. There upon it summit He stood to take a last view of Jerusalem, and to bid farewell to His children. He knew how they would need His support, and how all should be baptized in His baptism of blood. He gave them His parting counsels and lifted up His hands to bless them. Suddenly a new radiance shone from all His features, a cloud of dazzling light enveloped Him, and swiftly, gently He was borne up out of their sight. His last look was upon His Mother to cheer her in her bereavement and to nerve her for the work before her. He seemed to say, “Farewell dear Mother for a brief season only; I am going to prepare a bright throne for thee, and soon will send My angels to take thee, when thou like Me shalt be assumed into glory.” Mary took the meaning of His look and gazed lovingly after Him, till the bright clouds which curtained His ascent gathered into one, and naught was left but the majestic glories of the heavens, which caught the radiance of His departing form, and reflected back in purple, azure and gold the last beams of the light of the Son of Man. The Mother of God was again alone. For some moments the Apostles lingered gazing into heaven until the voices of angels reassured them of their Master’s farewell, and then they knelt around the stone on which were still imprinted the marks of His sacred feet. Then under the guidance of Mary they went back to the temple and began their great novena of prayer. – There are many considerations which go to make up the joy and glory of the Blessed Virgin in the triumphant ascension of her Son. It was indeed a temporary loss, and a long separation from the sight of Him Whose face constituted her bliss. She was for some long years to be on earth alone, while He was to be enthroned in Heaven. Her pilgrimage was not over and the dreary desert was still her portion. Yet He was now glorified and His sacred humanity had received its reward. His exaltation was hers also. Her heart now bound closer than ever to His, found rest with Him on the everlasting mountain. They way to Heaven was opened for the soul and body of redeemed and regenerate man. And her Child, her own flesh and blood, was crowned forever amid the burning glories of the eternal Trinity. Her Child was sitting on the throne of God, His co-equal and consubstantial Word. In Him therefore she was elevated and with Him she was glorified. He had ascended for the very purpose of drawing the human heart after Him, and she more than all others had merited the grace of this day. And as she stood looking after Him, her whole being went with Him, and from the dizzy height of sanctity which she had reached, all human things were out of sight. She seemed to invite the salutation of the Canticles, “Whither O thou most beautiful among women, has thy Beloved gone, whither is thy Beloved turned aside, and we will seek Him with thee?” And Mary was willing that her Beloved should be gone, in order that she might induce us to seek Him with her. We have a right to participate in her joy, for the nature which ascended, and which sits at God’s right hand, is our nature also. We have a part in this great exaltation. But then with mind and heart we must seek Him Who is gone before us, and be citizens in truth of that better land to which He invites us. “Who shall ascend into the mountain of the Lord, or who shall stand in His holy place? The innocent in hands and clean of heart.” The true way, therefore, to follow Christ, is to purify our hands and hearts from every stain of sin, and every affection to sin. We need to set always before our faces the sight of our ascended Lord, and to turn all our thoughts and affections to Him. We must open our souls to His attractions and let Him draw us away from the things of time and sense. Thus we may make a true ascension every day, as we approach nearer to the divine model. This is the end of the grace of regeneration. It takes us away from our human generation and our human ties, and unites us to God by a truer bond. Mary was the Mother of our Lord, and we are His children by a real participation in His nature. And as it is only by slow steps that this great ascension is accomplished, so we ought to ask for the aid of the Blessed Virgin that we may follow in the narrow way. Many make great progress and mount high upon the spiritual ladder, only to fall more fearfully by some great infidelity to God. Many lose the fruit of all their labors, when a little more perseverance would have gained for them an eternal crown. The heavens above us will not be always like those which curtained our Lord’s ascent. We must go on in darkness as well as in light, and seek for none to now our hearts but God, nor ask for consolation from creatures. The ascending soul can never find such consolation. It is only a mockery of its great wants. He who reads our hearts and knows their sincerity will be our support, and even when clouds and darkness are round about Him, He is only bringing us closer to Himself, and preparing us for His infinite purity. He will never be separated from the soul that truly seeks Him.