Pax! Below is Fr. Cassian's homily for the Feast of the Ascension (whether you celebrated it on Thursday or Sunday), where he speaks on the presence of Our Lord after he "ascended to the right hand of the Father".
Additionally, there are links to some recent homilies, but the monks want to wish all mothers a belated Happy Mother's Day. Through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, may God continue to bless all of our mothers.
by Fr. Basil Nixen, O.S.B.
April 14, 2013
Of Sin, Of Justice, and of Judgment
by Fr. Cassian Folsom, O.S.B.
April 28, 2013
and have come into the world...
by Fr. Cassian Folsom, O.S.B.
May 5, 2013
and How Can We Follow Him?
by Fr. Cassian Folsom, O.S.B.
May 12, 2013
We're also planning our next newsletter; if you know someone who might be interested in receiving it, please have them sign up here.
Finally, don't forget to look at the pilgrimages organized by Inside the Vatican. A few of them come to Norcia, which would give you the opportunity to visit and pray with the monks.
Monastery of San Benedetto, Norcia, Italy
Pope Benedict, in his book Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week, reflects on the mystery of the Ascension, asking essential questions which even resonate in our hearts:
...the Risen Lord, now “exalted at the right hand of God” (cf. Acts 2:33), [is he] not for that reason completely absent? Or, is he somehow accessible? Can we penetrate “to the right hand of God”? Within his absence is there nonetheless at the same time a real presence? Is it not the case that he will come to us only on some unknown last day? Can he come today as well? (Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week, pp 279-280).
These questions, which spontaneously rise up in our hearts, can be reduced to two questions: (1) where did the Lord go? and (2) how can we follow him?
Where did the Lord go?
Let’s try to address the first question: where did he go? Scripture says: And when he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight (Acts 1:9). Listening to such a description, we—formed as we are by a certain rationalism—we smile, thinking that the description of the cloud is rather picturesque, a bit primitive. On the contrary, it is an image specifically employed as an important theological affirmation for he who can still read the symbols. The cloud signifies the presence of God, a theophany, like in the moment of the transfiguration “in which a bright cloud falls on Jesus and the disciples” (p 282), and like many other manifestations of God in the Old Testament. The use of the image of the cloud “presents Jesus’ departure, not as a journey to the stars, but as his entry into the mystery of God” (p 282).
Then, other passages of the New Testament “describes the ‘place’ to which the cloud took Jesus, using the language of Ps 110:1, as sitting (or standing) at God’s right hand” (p 282). What does this mean? Pope Benedict observes, a bit humorously, that “it does not refer to some distant cosmic space, where God has, as it were, set up his throne and given Jesus a place beside the throne” (pp 282-283). We are too conditioned by time and space, but God has created time and space, and therefore, the Creator exists beyond these categories.
When the Bible says that the Lord Jesus was taken away by the cloud and seated at the right hand of God, it means that he is now found beyond created boundaries: from now on, he exists in the eternal presence of God. In this way, Christ is more present now than ever before. Before the Resurrection and Ascension, he lived in a determined space, he was limited by a determined time. Now he is eternally present and present wherever. As Pope Benedict says, “he is present with us and for us” (p 283).
If all of this is true, how can we follow him in his Ascension? How can we experience his presence? We know that his presence is multiplied. In fact, as Sacrosanctum Concilium (the document from the Second Vatican Council on liturgy) says:
But, the Lord is also present in our interior lives, and I would like to limit myself to a few reflections on this mode of Christ’s presence.Christ is always present in His Church, especially in her liturgical celebrations. He is present in the sacrifice of the Mass, not only in the person of His minister…but especially under the Eucharistic species. By His power He is present in the sacraments…He is present in His word…He is present, lastly, when the Church prays and sings, for He promised: ‘Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them’ (SC, 7).
As often happens in the spiritual life, we need to live with some paradoxes. For example, we want to follow the ascended Christ in heaven, going to the place where he has gone. But he anticipates that, and so comes to us, and establishes himself in the depths of our hearts. And roaming outside of ourselves, we lament because we cannot find him, we cannot feel his presence. It’s true: we don’t find him because we are looking for him in the wrong places. The angel rebukes the Apostles saying: Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? (Acts 1:11). Jesus explains things to his disciples using paradoxical words: I go away and then I come to you (Jn 14:28). Yes, he has gone away in the Ascension. And at the same time, precisely because of his departure, by his entrance into the divine dimension beyond our limited time and space, he comes to us, and is present in our hearts. To find him, we need to courageously and boldly enter our hearts into the depths of our existence. Pope Benedict explains that: “this path is not a matter of space travel of a cosmic-geographic nature: it is a ‘space travel’ of the heart, from the dimension of self-enclosed isolation to the new dimension of the world-embracing divine love” (p 286).
There is another paradox in this interior journey. We can arrive to him, only “by engaging in an exodus” from ourselves. It was Pope Francis who recently used this expression in a speech to a group of religious women, who are all superiors. The Pope said that we can exercise our service of authority in the most efficacious way, only by “engaging in an exodus” from ourselves. What does this mean? We must leave behind the place of slavery, the biblical Egypt, where we are held down by our projects and plans, by our ideas, by our versions of the will of God – and come out of ourselves heading towards the Promised Land, to the plans of God, to his ideas, and his will. Jesus himself engaged in this exodus. In fact, describing the transfiguration, St. Luke says that Moses and Elijah appeared, and speaking with the Lord of his “exodus” which he was going to accomplish at Jerusalem (Lk 9:31). The exodus is the way of the cross, which each one of us has to follow. The evangelical paradox is this: engaging in an exodus from ourselves, with total abandon to ourselves, we will finally be able to find the Lord, and in him, we find ourselves.
The Feast of the Ascension is a reason for great hope in us. From that moment, the Lord Jesus is always with us. And we can experience his presence, in the measure in which we are able, by the grace of God, to come out of ourselves and enter in the new dimension of the heart of God.
(Translated from the original Italian by B. Gonzalez.)