Today’s prayer survived the Consilium’s scissor and gluepot ministrations to live in the 2002 Missale Romanum as the alternative Collect for Mass on the day of Ascension. Rather, the Collect rose to new life in the 2002 edition. It wasn’t in the 1970MR or 1975MR. We can spin this positively: someone considered Ascension Thursday Sunday important enough to merit special attention. In a sense, it was brought into greater continuity with the pre-Conciliar Missale Romanum (of St. John XXIII)!
Today’s Collect is ancient, and is found in the Liber sacramentorum Gellonensis.
Concede, quaesumus, omnipotens Deus: ut, qui hodierna die Unigenitum tuum Redemptorem nostrum ad caelos ascendisse credimus; ipsi quoque mente in caelestibus habitemus.
Our hard working Lewis & Short Dictionary can have a little rest today, I think. There is nothing especially noteworthy in the vocabulary. Let us therefore move on to a straight-forward…
Grant, we beseech You, Almighty God, that we, who believe Your Only Begotten Son our Redeemer to have ascended on this day to heaven, may ourselves also dwell in mind amongst heavenly things.
Bl. Abbot Columba Marmion, OSB (+1923), wrote in Christ in His Mysteries that “of all the feasts of Our Lord … the Ascension is the greatest, because it is the supreme glorification of Christ Jesus.” Then, speaking about the very Collect we are looking at today, Bl. Columba says,
“This prayer first of all testifies to our faith in the mystery in recalling the title ‘Only-begotten Son’ and ‘Redeemer’, given to Jesus, the Church shows forth the reasons for the celestial exaltation of her Bridegroom;—she finally denotes the grace therein contained for our souls. … The mystery of Jesus Christ’s Ascension is represented to us in a manner suitable to our nature: we contemplate the Sacred Humanity rising from the earth and ascending visibly towards the heavens.”
It is not only Christ’s humanity but our humanity that ascended into heaven.
Preaching on 1 June 444 St. Pope Leo I “the Great” said,
“Truly it was a great and indescribable source of rejoicing when, in the sight of the heavenly multitudes, the nature of our human race ascended over the dignity of all heavenly creatures, to pass the angelic orders and to be raised beyond the heights of archangels. In its ascension it did not stop at any other height until this same nature was received at the seat of the eternal Father, to be associated on the throne of the glory of that One to whose nature it was joined in the Son.”
Leo says in another sermon of 17 May 445,
“This Faith, reinforced by the Ascension of the Lord and strengthened by the gift of the Holy Spirit, has not been terrified by chains, by prison, by exile, by hunger, by fire, by the mangling of wild beasts, nor by sharp suffering from the cruelty of persecutors. Throughout the world, not only men but also women, not just immature boys but also tender virgins, have struggled on behalf of this Faith even to the shedding of their blood. This Faith has cast out demons, driven away sicknesses, and raised the dead.”
The knowledge that our humanity is now enjoying heaven can work wonders for us in the hour of need. Keep this in mind in time of trial.
We Catholics know that what was not assumed, was not redeemed (St. Gregory of Nazianzus).
Our humanity, body and soul, was taken by the Son into an unbreakable bond with His divinity. When Christ rose from the tomb, our humanity rose in Him. When He ascended to heaven, so also did we. In Christ our humanity now sits at the Father’s right hand. His presence there is our great promise and hope. It is already fulfilled, but not yet in its fullness. That hope informs our trials in this life.
When the Lord ascended to heaven He did not lose touch with us His people in this vale of tears. St. Augustine in s. 341 talks about Christ’s presence in every word of Scripture as Word equal to the Father; or as the mediator in the flesh dwelling in our midst; or Christ as the Head and Body together as in a spousal relationship, Christ and His Church intimately bound.
This means that Christ is not insensible to our sufferings.
Our faith in this unbreakable bond of Head and Body calls us to be clean and worthy of this saving intimacy.