Ascension Thursday

It is the feast of the Ascension today in Rome. In NZ this will be celebrated on Sunday.

This morning I celebrated Mass in St Peter’s Basilica especially for the people of the Chatham Islands, and especially those of St Therese of Lisieux Parish Chathams with those who worship at Our Lady of the Antipodes, Pitt Island.

St Therese of Lisieux Church
Waitangi, Chatham Islands

A few years ago I read a book that changed my understanding and deepened my appreciation of the Liturgy. In this book, The Wellspring of Worship by Fr. Jean Corbon, the author places the Ascension at the heart of Catholic celebration of the Mass. He uses the image of the fountain and the river. A key quotation from the book:

“They have carefully sealed up the tomb again and filled up the fountain with sand; they continue to “look among the dead for someone who is alive” and they return to their narrow lives in which some things have to do with morality and others with cult, as in the case of the upright men and women of the old covenant. But in fact the ascension is a decisive turning point. It does indeed mark the end of something that is not simply to be cast aside: the end of a relationship to Jesus that is still wholly external. Above all, however, it marks the beginning of an entirely new relationship of faith and of a new time: the liturgy of the last times.”

As an Ascension reflection you might like to follow the link above to read a little more. Take it gently, it is pretty heavy in place, but even a sentence or two can help to deepen our understanding of the Mass. You will notice that in speaking about the Mass Corbon is not talking about what the people and the priest do at Mass. He is not speaking about the human words and actions, the ritual and rubric. Instead he tells of the Mass as the ultimate action of God in our midst and in our time. In the Mass we are tasting a reality that transcends human time and human experience. This taste feeds our appetite for divine eternity.

This is especially evident for me these early morning’s at St Peters. Mass is being celebrated with small groups of people throughout the basilica. These are the early hours before the tourists. Here people are expressing their desire for God simply by their presence. And God responds as, once again, the Word becomes flesh, and dwells among us.

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