From the Pastor – May 23, 2009

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension, which is the elevation of Christ into heaven by His own power in presence of His disciples. In Sacred Scripture, this occurred on the fortieth day after the Resurrection – which was actually last Thursday, traditionally called “Ascension Thursday. However, the celebration of the Ascension has been moved to Sunday to encourage a more active participation in the Feast. In terms of modern aviation, I guess Jesus’ flight got postponed for three days!

The Ascension was prophesized by Christ’s own words. In John 6:63, Christ asks the Jews: “What if you were to see the Son of Man ascend to where He was before?” and in 20:17, He says to Mary Magdalen: “Do not touch Me, for I am not yet ascended to My Father, but go to My brethren, and say to them: I ascend to My Father and to your Father, to My God and to your God.”

Tradition has consecrated the place of the Ascension as Mount Olivet near Jerusalem, since the disciples are described as returning to Jerusalem after the Ascension from “the mount that is called Olivet.” (Acts 1:12). Christian piety memorialized the event by erecting a basilica over the site. The original basilica was destroyed by the Persians in 614, rebuilt in the eighth century, destroyed again, and rebuilt a second time by the crusaders. This second basilica was also destroyed by the Muslims, leaving only an octagonal structure which encloses the stone said to bear the imprint of the feet of Christ. It is now used as a small oratory.

And next Sunday we will celebrate Pentecost, which occurred nine days after the Ascension (and is the origin of the word “Novena,” for nine days of prayer), when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles and Mary. As part of our Pentecost celebration, we will welcome to our parish Father Paulinus Iwuji of the Order of the Sons and Daughters of Mary Mother of Mercy (SMMM) as part of the Archdiocesan Missionary Plan. The purpose of the plan is to educate us regarding the missionary work of Christ, to solicit prayers and financial support for the missionaries, and to harmonize missionary efforts and guarantee a fair distribution of aid. Father Iwuji is part of a growing religious order with over 80 seminarians serving in Africa, and he will be here to help us to understand his mission. In doing so, he will also help us remind ourselved of the universality of our church and our own responsibility to take part in the Universal Mission of Christ to bring the message of Christ to all of the nations of the world (Mt. 28:16-20). Pray the Novena this week! Come Holy Spirit!

Rev. Msgr. Christopher H. Nalty