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: United

Burnes Jones, BirminghamThe second reading at Mass on Sunday last, the first Sunday of Lent, was an encouraging word, and a profoundly sober and levelling word.

Scripture says: The word (that is the faith we proclaim) is very near to you, it is on your lips and in your heart.

If your lips confess that Jesus is Lord and if you believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, then you will be saved.

By believing from the heart you are made righteous; by confessing with your lips you are saved.

When scripture says: those who believe in him will have no cause for shame, it makes no distinction between Jew and Greek: all belong to the same Lord who is rich enough, however many ask his help, for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
Romans 10:8-13

We are lost, unless we are saved. And if we are saved we are saved not by our own efforts, but because of what God has done and what Jesus is.

We could argue from Paul’s words that our salvation is achieved by our believing, our confessing, but that would surely be false to the tenor of Paul’s argument. It is the Lord who saves and we have access to that salvation by his love: our faith, our confession are an acceptance of his gift not a forcing of his hand.

When such goodness is offered and we do not believe, confess, have faith, then failure is ours and we are lost. Unless, until, we can call on him and then the gift is freely given.

All is his gift.

And his gift is offered freely to all – Jew, Greek, and all the many differentiations that we make between the ‘all’ to whom God gives life, the ‘all’ that ‘we’ are.

  • Who do you exclude from the ‘we’ you count yourself part of?
  • Why?
  • Does anyone else? Does God?

Window by Burne-Jones,  Cathedral Church of Saint Philip, Birmingham. (c) 2013, Allen Morris.