“Quam pulchri super montes pedes adnuntiantis et praedicantis” – Lordly Feet on Ascension Thursday

There are many images of the Lord’s Ascension to heaven through history, and rightly so.  This is probably the greatest of all the Feasts of the Lord and for our own humanity.  Imagine!  Our humanity is seated – RIGHT NOW  – at the right hand of the Father.

The depictions I like the most are the medieval illustrations which show the Apostles, often with Mary, looking upward as a pair of lordly Feet at all that remains to be seen.

The Ascension of Christ, historiated initial ‘C’, Italy, 15C (State Library of Victoria, RARES 096 IL I)

Who better to turn to for some insight into this than Ratzinger?

From the site Ignatius Insight, providing an excerpt from “The Ascension: The Beginning of a New Nearness,” from Joseph Ratzinger’s Images of Hope: Meditations on Major Feasts (Ignatius Press, 2006 – UK HERE).  My emphases and comments:

You are surely familiar with all those precious, naïve images in which only the feet of Jesus are visible, sticking out of the cloud, at the heads of the apostles. The cloud, for its part, is a dark circle on the perimeter; on the inside, however, blazing light. It occurs to me that precisely in the apparent naïveté of this representation something very deep comes into view. All we see of Christ in the time of history are his feet and the cloud. His feet—what are they?

We are reminded, first of all, of a peculiar sentence from the Resurrection account in Matthew’s Gospel, where it is said that the women held onto the feet of the Risen Lord and worshipped him. As the Risen One, he towers over earthly proportions. We can still only touch his feet; and we touch them in adoration. Here we could reflect that we come as worshippers, following his trail, close to his footsteps. Praying, we go to him; praying, we touch him, even if in this world, so to speak, always only from below, only from afar, always only on the trail of his earthly steps. At the same time it becomes clear that we do not find the footprints of Christ when we look only below, when we measure only footprints and want to subsume faith in the obvious. The Lord is movement toward above, and only in moving ourselves, in looking up and ascending, do we recognize him.

When we read the Church Fathers something important is added. The correct ascent of man occurs precisely where he learns, in humbly turning toward his neighbor, to bow very deeply, down to his feet, down to the gesture of the washing of feet. It is precisely humility, which can bow low, that carries man upward. This is the dynamic of ascent that the feast of the Ascension wants to teach us.

Let’s have a few more, animi caussa!

From the Parisian Missal

With footprints on his blasting off pad.

And there is the more, “It’s a bird!  It’s plane!” style.

Note the reactions…

Getting a helping hand.  Christ is carrying a scroll.  What could be written on it?  It must mean something.

Here’s 15th c. Flemish version where we see Christ getting to the right hand of the Father.  Nice!

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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5 Responses to “Quam pulchri super montes pedes adnuntiantis et praedicantis” – Lordly Feet on Ascension Thursday

  1. Bonaventurian says:

    “I must go, my Father needs me”

  2. Semper Gumby says:

    Thank you Fr. Z for the Ascension Thursday art and reflection.

  3. Pingback: Himmelfartskapellet på Oljeberget » EN KATOLSK WEBLOG

  4. teomatteo says:

    I dont think i’ve ever seen the top of a halo depicted. Thanks Father.

  5. Pingback: Richard Challoner School » Depicting the Ascension