“Quam pulchri super montes pedes adnuntiantis et praedicantis” – The Lord’s Ascension and Lordly Feet

There are many images of the Lord’s Ascension to heaven through history, and rightly so.  With the Annunciation, the Ascension is perhaps the greatest of all the Feasts of the Lord and for our own humanity.  Imagine!  Our humanity, taken into an indestructible bond with the Lord’s divinity at the Annunciation, with the Ascension is seated – RIGHT NOW  – at the right hand of the Father.

Now HE.  Later WE.

The Ascension is an article of the Creed and it behooves us to reflect on it.

The depictions of the Ascension 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.

It the readings for the Sunday after Ascension, what does Peter teach us?  Charity covers a multitude of sins!

Let’s have a few more images of the Ascension of different styles, 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

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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3 Comments

  1. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    A fine, and delightful, selection! Including two with footprints! (Something Joseph Ratzinger takes up thoughtfully in a couple ways in that excerpt – I want to know more about (liturgical) ‘vestigia’ references and imagery!)

    I encountered a nice modernized quotation from Nicholas Love’s mediaeval English translation of Meditationes Vitae Christi as The Mirror of the Blessed Life of Jesus Christ:

    This Ascension Day is properly the most solemn feast of our Lord Jesus: for this day first in his manhood he began to sit on the Father’s right hand in bliss and took full rest of all his pilgrimage before. Also this is properly the feast of all the blessed spirits in heaven: for this day they had a new joy of their lord whom they saw never before there in his manhood. And also for that day began first to be restored the falling down of their fellows, and that in so great multitude and number of blessed souls of patriarchs and prophets and all those holy souls that this day first entered into that blessed City of heavenly Jerusalem, their kind heritage above.

    That leaves me wanting to read more – but Lawrence F. Powell’s 1908 transcription looks a lot slower going! – maybe it would be better to start with W.H. Hutchings’s 1881 translation as The Life of Christ by S. Bonaventure (both happily scanned in the Internet Archive).

  2. Suburbanbanshee says:

    It’s kind of a happy reversal of 2 Kings 15:30 and 32.

    David was fleeing Jerusalem because of Absalom, and all his household was with him, and David was barefoot and crying and covering his head, and he went up to the Mount of Olives and was going to adore God there. Then he ran into Hushai and sent his buddy back to the city to give Absalom bad advice.

    Whereas in this case, Jesus is generally happy and in triumph, and He’s going to Heaven itself via the Mount of Olives. And the Apostles are going back to wait on the Holy Spirit and then start spreading the Gospel. But the feet thing is there.

  3. PostCatholic says:

    I’m quite partial to the perspective Salvador Dali painted in his 1958 “L’Ascension du Christ.” https://www.dalipaintings.com/the-ascension-of-christ.jsp

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