The Ascension of the Lord
My friends in Christ, today, we celebrate the great Solemnity of the Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ into Heaven, body and soul, the perfect unity of fully-God and fully-man entering into the fullness of the Kingdom, thereby opening the gates of Heaven for all of us His faithful who, by the grace of God, will follow after.... At the same time, we are near the end of May – a month that traditionally is held in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary. And the reason why I mention these two details is because I have seen an icon recently that portrays the Lord’s Ascension...with the Lord’s Mother looking on. And, in fact, she is prominently featured. The Lord is ascending into Heaven, framed in a heavenly light and accompanied by the angels...and below are the Apostles Saint Peter and Saint Paul...and Mother Mary is with them.
Now, Sacred Scripture is peculiarly silent on the matter of whether or not Mother Mary was actually present at her Son’s Ascension; even so, there is a surprising amount of religious art, almost in every artistic era, that portrays her as present there – this icon that I saw being amongst the most recent examples. And I think that it is a most beautiful reflection on the part of those many artists, that they would feature her so prominently at her Son’s Ascension; and, in fact, I think that in their portrayal of the Mother being there at the final earthly moment of her Son, those artists show their particularly keen insight on the glory of motherhood.
Because even though I myself am not a mother (obviously!), in the conversations that I have had with those who are mothers, it has become very clear that the highest glory of their motherhood resides in the flourishing of their children...the mother’s joy attains to its most supreme expression when their children have realized the fullness of their potential.
It is basic, fundamental human anatomy: the child is conceived in the mother; and the child then continues to grow, again, in the mother; the mother gives so much of her very life, her very self, to her child; and she continues to do so even long after the child is born. It is such an amazing miracle, and one marvels that the father had anything to do with it at all!
And so given all of that, no wonder then that a mother’s highest glory truly is the flourishing of her children – because in their flourishing, she is blessed to see something of her own flourishing, as well, as their mother.... And, on the other hand, that a mother’s most grievous sorrow would be to see her children utterly squander their potential.
Mother Mary was made to suffer having to see her Son betrayed, tortured, and put to death, and that would be an unbearable sorrow for any mother, no doubt about it. But then again, she was at least blessed to behold that it was not all for nothing, for through death, Jesus her Son rose again to new life – to realize, to maximize, His full potential.... Sadly, some mothers are forced to watch their children not even try.
And so this is why I love religious art that portrays the Lord’s Ascension with Mother Mary present there. With His Ascension into Heaven, body and soul, Jesus Christ manifests the absolute perfection of His God-given mission: the redemption of all Creation...the salvation of souls...the fulfillment of a long-awaited, perfect unity and communion between Heaven and Earth, the divine and the human, God and man.... And His Mother got to see that! And so it was that her mother’s glory, her joy, was made complete.
But remember that Mother Mary is our mother, too. She is our spiritual mother. Jesus gave her to us when He gave her to the Beloved Disciple, when Mother and Disciple were watching Him die at the foot of the Cross. “Woman, behold, your son.... Behold, your mother.”
We hear it said so often that we ought to strive for perfection even now, avoiding all sin and attaining to all virtue, because we are beloved sons and daughters of our Father, Who art in Heaven, and because we are faithful, joyful disciples of Jesus Christ, and because we are temples of the Holy Spirit.... And now, I propose to you that there is yet another reason why we should always strive for perfection, avoiding all sin and attaining to all virtue, and it is this, that we should want to make our Mother proud of us. And hopefully, we would want to show our Mother that we really do love her.
When I was a kid, I used to show my mother that I love her by collecting wildflowers out of our field and putting them in a vase for her. And I know now (and of course, she knew all along), that those wildflowers were crawling with bugs and were really just glorified weeds! But she also knew all along that my intention was to show her that I love her.
Mother Mary likes flowers, too; but the best flowers are spiritual flowers. She likes roses best, and spiritual roses...are the Rosary. It is, in fact, no mistake, no coincidence, that the word “rose” is in fact eerily similar to the word “Rosary.” We can show our Mother that we love her – we can give her spiritual flowers – when we pray the Rosary. And hopefully we would show Mother Mary that we love her every day; hopefully, therefore, we would pray the Rosary every day.
May also is the month when we commemorate the Memorial of Our Lady of Fatima, and it was only a couple of years ago that we celebrated one hundred years of Our Lady of Fatima, and as we may remember, a lot of attention and renewed interest was being focused on Mother Mary...on Marian devotion...on the Rosary. Here in our own diocese, we remember, we commemorated the centenary of Fatima with a Eucharistic Family Rosary Crusade, which took place that year, in 2017, in July at the Avista Stadium baseball park. And we as a diocese called for a renewal of the very old tradition of families praying the Rosary together, as family: the family Rosary.
And just as the diocese pleaded with all of us back then, so I implore all of you now: please do make every effort of restoring this ancient Marian devotion at the heart of home and family, that by our prayer through Mary to Jesus, we might encounter the grace and love and mercy of our Father, Who art in Heaven, in wonderful ways.
May it be that Mother Mary would continue to call us to her, and through her to her Son and the Kingdom of Heaven the gates of which, by the power of His Resurrection and the glory of His Ascension, He has thrown open for His faithful. And then, at the end of days, by God’s grace and the constant prayers and intercession of Mother Mary and of all of the saints and angels in Heaven, we will be welcomed home forever, at long last, in halls of heavenly realms.
on Tuesday, May 26 at 8:11AM