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

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!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. RosaryRose says:

    Those precious feet!

    One of my favorite parts in the Bible is after the Ascension the two men in white are there and say (I’m paraphrasing) “ok, that’s it, guys. He’s gone. Let’s go! He’ll return like he left, but you need to go. Break it up, go on home.” It’s one of the most realistic, tangible scenes in the Bible to me. I can absolutely imagine just standing there watching the sky, and needing angels to tell me to leave.

    Lord God, thank You for angels.

  2. PostCatholic says:

    I’ve always liked Salvador Dali’s perspective in “The Ascension of Christ.”

  3. JabbaPapa says:

    Double Feast day here — Ascension ; and because here are many Portuguese, Trece de Mayo.

    As I am heading to, among other Sanctuaries, in foot pilgrimage to Fátima — well, that’s two Masses for me today.

  4. Kate says:

    This juxtaposting of artwork reminds me of a recent conversation that we had within the family unit. Turns out that we did not imagine the Ascension all in the same way. Some have the image that Christ did not rise up too far — just 20-30 feet –when the cloud covered him. Others that he went up to cloud level. And some had the image of somewhere in between! It never occurred to me that others would have a different idea of what happened that day than I have. Lesson learned.

  5. Fr. Kelly says:

    To elaborate on Rosary Rose’s observation:

    To the angels, Christ’s Resurrection and Ascension are not the surprising things.
    For them the astonishing thing is that He should have taken on human flesh in the first place, and he even went so far as to die!

    These two waited at the tomb to tell the women and the apostles, “you are in the wrong place — looking for the Living among the dead. Get on your way, He is going before you to Galilee.”

    Now 40 days later, they show tremendous patience. Here they have to come back to roust the apostles out of their astonishment that has them staring up into the sky as though the throne of God could be seen by looking harder into the sky.

    They tell them, “He told you to go back to Jerusalem and wait for the Gift of the Father that He told you about. You are to be baptized with the Holy Spirit in just a few days. Get going!”

    It’s a good thing the angels are patient with us.

  6. Sandy says:

    I like the mention of Our Lord’s feet, because of a devotion I have to the Precious Blood of Christ. In prayer at times, I picture myself kissing the divine feet, although I can’t touch Him, I remind Him. But it is comforting to pretend that I can kiss His Precious bloodied feet, to comfort Him on the Cross.

  7. Semper Gumby says:

    Magnificent. Also noteworthy are the Ascension by Rembrandt and Giacamo Cavedone.

    “Christ carrying a scroll” is interesting. Maybe it has something to do with John 21:25, or Numbers 21:14-15, 1 Kings 14:19,29, 1 Samuel 10:25.

  8. Hugh says:

    I’ve never been to the Holy Land, but if I did go, I’d be looking at pebbles by the road and thinking “I wonder if the last time that stone was touched by a human foot, it was the foot of Our Lord?”

    I also like to ponder that at the Second Coming, perhaps all those dry little pebbles will suddenly glisten like the stars in the heavens.

  9. Semper Gumby says:

    Hugh: Well said.

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