Taste and See: Discipleship

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The eleven disciples set out for Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had arranged to meet them. When they saw him they fell down before him, though some hesitated.

Jesus came up and spoke to them. He said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.’

Matthew 28:16-20

The commission given to the disciples, and to the Church, is very clear: make disciples; baptise; teach them to observe the commands I gave.

The order of these things will vary according to Church practice, most notably whether infants or adults are baptised – sometimes learning the commands precedes baptism, sometimes it follows it.

However if the Church is truly to make disciples – and not ‘just’ perform liturgical rites – those being initiated need to be made aware of that abiding presence of Jesus to the Church and her members, and desirous to respond more and more to that presence through their lives.

It is through our presence to him, almost as much as through his presence to us, that discipleship is formed and fostered.

Baptistery, Metropolitan Cathedral, Liverpool. (c) 2006, Allen Morris.

 

Taste and See: Saviour ever for us…

 

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It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation,
always and everywhere to give you thanks,
Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God.

For the Lord Jesus, the King of glory,
conqueror of sin and death,
ascended (today) to the highest heavens,
as the Angels gazed in wonder.

Mediator between God and man,
judge of the world and Lord of hosts,
he ascended, not to distance himself from our lowly state
but that we, his members, might be confident of following
where he, our Head and Founder, has gone before.

Therefore, overcome with paschal joy,
every land, every people exults in your praise
and even the heavenly Powers, with the angelic hosts,
sing together the unending hymn of your glory,
as they acclaim: Holy…

The Preface above is said on the day of the Ascension of the Lord.

The Preface above used at Mass yesterday, Ascension Sunday, highlights the way that the Ascension of Jesus is not simply a return to heaven for the one who came down from there. In the Ascension Jesus continues his saving work: he traces the path that we too, in time, are intended and purposed to trace.

The apostles are chided for gazing upward – or at least for lingering to long in their wonder – but the Preface tells us that the angels too gaze in wonder, as well they might!

The Prayer urges us to confidence in Christ’s saving work…

  • What grounds for such confidence do you hold to?
  • What difference does the saving love of Jesus Christ make for you and yours – and for your neighbour and ‘strangers’?

Carving. Cloister of St Trophime, Arles. (c) 2013, Allen Morris

 

Speak Lord: Ascended in Glory

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God goes up with shouts of joy; the Lord goes up with trumpet blast or Alleluia!

All peoples, clap your hands,
cry to God with shouts of joy!
For the Lord, the Most High, we must fear,
great king over all the earth.

God goes up with shouts of joy; the Lord goes up with trumpet blast or Alleluia!

God goes up with shouts of joy;
the Lord goes up with trumpet blast.
Sing praise for God, sing praise,
sing praise to our king, sing praise.

God goes up with shouts of joy; the Lord goes up with trumpet blast or Alleluia!

God is king of all the earth,
sing praise with all your skill.
God is king over the nations;
God reigns on his holy throne.

God goes up with shouts of joy; the Lord goes up with trumpet blast or Alleluia!

Psalm 46:2-3,6-9

The psalm at Mass today, Ascension Day, unites us in a song of praise to the glory of God.

The Lord who here served so well and at such cost is restored to heaven. We had no right to expect the ‘intervention’ of the Incarnation, to the ministry of God in flesh here on earth.  But here he came and now in celebrating the ‘return’ of God, we celebrate too that God returns, united in Jesus Christ with humanity.

The one who ascends and is now seated at the right hand of the Father still shares our flesh, and still works for us, in intercession, and in the sacramental order that we might share in his divinity.

12th C carving from Cologne, in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum. (c) 2007, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: the gift of life

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In my earlier work, Theophilus, I dealt with everything Jesus had done and taught from the beginning until the day he gave his instructions to the apostles he had chosen through the Holy Spirit, and was taken up to heaven. He had shown himself alive to them after his Passion by many demonstrations: for forty days he had continued to appear to them and tell them about the kingdom of God. When he had been at table with them, he had told them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for what the Father had promised. ‘It is’ he had said ‘what you have heard me speak about: John baptised with water but you, not many days from now, will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.’

Now having met together, they asked him, ‘Lord, has the time come? Are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He replied, ‘It is not for you to know times or dates that the Father has decided by his own authority, but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and then you will be my witnesses not only in Jerusalem but throughout Judaea and Samaria, and indeed to the ends of the earth.’

As he said this he was lifted up while they looked on, and a cloud took him from their sight. They were still staring into the sky when suddenly two men in white were standing near them and they said, ‘Why are you men from Galilee standing here looking into the sky? Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven, this same Jesus will come back in the same way as you have seen him go there.’

Acts 1:1-11

Tomorrow, the feast of the Ascension, we hear the account of Jesus’ ascending to the Father from the Acts of the Apostles. It is a scene of wonder and awe. This is not the sort of thing that happens every day!

And yet as the apostles stand there, gob-smacked, the two men in white appear and call them from peering into the heavens, and re-direct their attention to the things of earth. We might think of the two men in white as angels, but like God – Father, Son and Spirit – the things of the world matter greatly to them.

God who came to earth from heaven and returned there until he will come again, came to help us to live and love well here.

  • How do you respond to this gift?

Prayer at the Mosque of the Ascension, Jerusalem. (c) 2017, Allen Morris

Taste and See: Our confident hope

Ascension - Burne Jones, BirminghamThere are two alternative Prefaces provided for use in the Eucharistic Prayer from the feast of the Ascension until Pentecost.

The first, given below, gives a bold assurance of a purpose of the Ascension. It is not about separation from us, though there is something of that, or at least a certain space opened between disciples and Master, into which, by grace, they are able to grow and mature. It is about giving the confidence that, where he has gone, we shall follow.

It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation,
always and everywhere to give you thanks,
Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God.

For the Lord Jesus, the King of glory,
conqueror of sin and death,
ascended (today) to the highest heavens,
as the Angels gazed in wonder.

Mediator between God and man,
judge of the world and Lord of hosts,
he ascended, not to distance himself from our lowly state
but that we, his members, might be confident of following
where he, our Head and Founder, has gone before.

Therefore, overcome with paschal joy,
every land, every people exults in your praise
and even the heavenly Powers, with the angelic hosts,
sing together the unending hymn of your glory,
as they acclaim:

Holy, holy, holy…

Preface: Ascension I

The Ascension is not only about the return to heaven of him who came down from heaven. For in his coming to us, the second Person of the Trinity took to himself our human nature, not as temporary disguise or a skin to make himself ‘visible’.  In Jesus God united, irrevocably, with a human person, and in uniting with one person, assumed humanity. God enters into a new and profound communion with all human kind: through Jesus, he is our kin.

The Incarnation is a unique event: from the moment of his conception in the womb of Mary, Jesus alone is fully God and fully Man.

As Jesus, God lived one with us on earth.

As Jesus, humanity lives with God in heaven.

Incarnation, and indeed the sacraments – further gift of God – bridge the separation between heaven and earth.

We are not there yet, but the way is opened for us, and we are enjoined, encouraged, to be ready to join our elder brother.

Give thanks!

The Ascension. Burne Jones, St Philip’s Cathedral, Birmingham. (c) 2013, Allen Morris

Taste and See: Rich glory

Ascension Walsingham

The Second reading at Mass yesterday, Sunday, the feast of the Ascension, came from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.

Paul speaks of the Easter event, Christ’s rising from the dead, his being seated at the right hand of the Father in Glory: an event in history and beyond history. He speaks of it as an event which shouts the rule of Christ, and an event which is our secured hope.

May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a spirit of wisdom and perception of what is revealed, to bring you to full knowledge of him.

May he enlighten the eyes of your mind so that you can see what hope his call holds for you, what rich glories he has promised the saints will inherit and how infinitely great is the power that he has exercised for us believers.

This you can tell from the strength of his power at work in Christ, when he used it to raise him from the dead and to make him sit at his right hand, in heaven, far above every Sovereignty, Authority, Power, or Domination, or any other name that can be named not only in this age but also in the age to come. He has put all things under his feet and made him, as the ruler of everything, the head of the Church; which is his body, the fullness of him who fills the whole creation.

Ephesians 1:17-23

Sometimes, as in the image above the Ascension is symbolised by two plaster feet dangling from a ceiling. That symbolism makes its point, but Paul has a broader, deeper, more profound perspective. It is about the reign of God. It is about salvation. And it is about the fulfilment of the potential of us, the restoration of us to right relationship with God.

  • What, in Christ, can we rise above?
  • To what, in Christ, can we confidently aspire?

 

The Ascension. Anglican Shrine at Walsingham. (c) 2003, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Point us forward

Ascension, Bungay.jpgThe first reading at Mass today, Ascension Sunday, tells of the Mystery of the Ascension and anticipates the Gospel reading which tells of the same Mystery.

In my earlier work, Theophilus, I dealt with everything Jesus had done and taught from the beginning until the day he gave his instructions to the apostles he had chosen through the Holy Spirit, and was taken up to heaven. He had shown himself alive to them after his Passion by many demonstrations: for forty days he had continued to appear to them and tell them about the kingdom of God. When he had been at table with them, he had told them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for what the Father had promised. ‘It is’ he had said ‘what you have heard me speak about: John baptised with water but you, not many days from now, will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.’

Now having met together, they asked him, ‘Lord, has the time come? Are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He replied, ‘It is not for you to know times or dates that the Father has decided by his own authority, but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and then you will be my witnesses not only in Jerusalem but throughout Judaea and Samaria, and indeed to the ends of the earth.’

As he said this he was lifted up while they looked on, and a cloud took him from their sight. They were still staring into the sky when suddenly two men in white were standing near them and they said, ‘Why are you men from Galilee standing here looking into the sky? Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven, this same Jesus will come back in the same way as you have seen him go there.’

Acts 1:1-11

The accounts are both in works by Luke but there are some differences. Here the concern of the disciples is for the (nature of the) coming of the kingdom: there the concern is for the joining of the dots in terms of ‘understanding’ Jesus and his mission. In both the narrative also looks forward to the coming of the Holy Spirit and the fresh empowerment of the disciples.

  • For what do we need the power of the Spirit?
  • Where do we find our selves revitalised in God’s love.

The Ascension. Bungay Parish Church, Suffolk. (c) 2011, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Our Saviour

Cross Compton Verney

The responsorial psalm for Mass tomorrow, Sunday, the feast of the Ascension, is chosen for the appropriateness of the imagery drawn from the Temple Liturgy to celebrate the Mystery of the Ascension.

God goes up with shouts of joy; the Lord goes up with trumpet blast.
or
Alleluia!

All peoples, clap your hands,
cry to God with shouts of joy!
For the Lord, the Most High, we must fear,
great king over all the earth.

God goes up with shouts of joy;
the Lord goes up with trumpet blast.
Sing praise for God, sing praise,
sing praise to our king, sing praise.

God is king of all the earth,
sing praise with all your skill.
God is king over the nations;
God reigns on his holy throne.

Psalm 46:2-3,6-9

The image above shows the Ascended Christ, welcoming St Nicholas into Paradise. It reminds that the Lord’s Mystery is also a mystery of our lives in Christ. Jesus holds the Cross, a reminder of the cost of his Victory, and testimony to his love for us and all.

  • To which part of your life do you wish the Lord’s triumph next to be applied?
  • How can you best cooperate with his grace?

 

Detail of Saint Nicholas of Bari Received into Paradise Francesco de Mura (1696–1782) Compton Verney  (c) 2016, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: who call us to glory

Ascension Hampton LucyThe Second reading on Sunday, the feast of the Ascension, comes from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. The reading adverts to the Mystery, of Jesus’ being now seated at the right hand of the Father in glory, but also to our continued relationship with him: a privileged relationship, grounded on faith and sustained in love.

May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a spirit of wisdom and perception of what is revealed, to bring you to full knowledge of him.

May he enlighten the eyes of your mind so that you can see what hope his call holds for you, what rich glories he has promised the saints will inherit and how infinitely great is the power that he has exercised for us believers.

This you can tell from the strength of his power at work in Christ, when he used it to raise him from the dead and to make him sit at his right hand, in heaven, far above every Sovereignty, Authority, Power, or Domination, or any other name that can be named not only in this age but also in the age to come. He has put all things under his feet and made him, as the ruler of everything, the head of the Church; which is his body, the fullness of him who fills the whole creation.

Ephesians 1:17-23

  • What does God call you to?
  • To what do you aspire?
  • Are these things the same?

Bring your responses to God in prayer.

The Ascension. St Peter ad Vincula, Hampton Lucy, Warwickshire. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Send us out

Ascension Vatican

The Gospel on Sunday –  in England and Wales, Ascension Sunday – comes from the Gospel of Luke

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘You see how it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that, in his name, repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses to this.

‘And now I am sending down to you what the Father has promised. Stay in the city then, until you are clothed with the power from on high.’

Then he took them out as far as the outskirts of Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. Now as he blessed them, he withdrew from them and was carried up to heaven. They worshipped him and then went back to Jerusalem full of joy; and they were continually in the Temple praising God.

Luke 24:46-53

The Gospel of Luke ends almost as it began, in the Temple of Jerusalem. In Chapter One of the Gospel Israel represented by the barren priestly family of Zechariah and Elizabeth. In Chapter 24 it is fishermen and tax-collectors who inhabit the Temple of God. A new fulfilment has come to Israel, and Israel will not be the same again…

And in the days that follow, when the fulness of the Spirit comes, the disciples  will venture out of the city into the rest of the world, and the world will never be the same again…

Joyful Mysteries. Vatican. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.