The Ascension of the Lord
Fr James writes:
Thursday (tomorrow) is the great feast of the Ascension of the Lord. This is the fortieth day after Easter Sunday. Forty is always a significant number in our faith, pointing to something being complete. Normally it would be for us a Holy Day of Obligation, because it teaches us something absolutely vital to our faith, that we need to make our own. (It was good that only a year or so ago the bishops stopped the practice of moving this feast to the next Sunday, and that was a wise decision. The fortieth day is important, and that change in routine marked by an obligation is useful to our health of spirit!) A Holy Day is also always a day of celebration, so whatever the hassles of lockdown are for you tomorrow – and I know they are testing many in really awful ways – take time to pray and to be joyful. Because:
Jesus ascended into heaven, into that other dimension, the life and dimension of God His Father, as the completion of the triumph of the resurrection. On Easter night we sang how the fault of Adam was repaid so mind-bogglingly generously by God by opening to us his own life. As we see Jesus ascend, we see God “doing what it says on the tin” if you like. In Jesus God took to himself our life, our flesh and blood, our frailty and our death. Now all of that is part of God himself. In short, the Resurrection is from this point everywhere: in every age, every place, every soul who says “yes” to the invitation of God.
The scriptures tell us that the disciples, with Mary and the others who made up the community of the Risen Lord, spent the next nine days in prayer, awaiting the coming of God the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Let us all do the same, in our parish and throughout the Church. This is the original Novena. Below are some suggestions about how to pray the nine days. In the end it is simple: make an intention of prayer. Bring that intention to God, add the prayers of the church: Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory be, and pray for the gift of the Holy Spirit, each day till Pentecost Sunday.
Perhaps our intention for this Novena could be for the end to the scourge of Covid-19? Or for relief of particular suffering? Whatever it is, let us use lockdown to renew our spiritual life in this way.
The Divine Office
Other Forms of Prayer
Journey with Mary (an expanded version of the above Prayer Intentions)
Holy Spirit Novena (This novena has been prepared by the Westminster Diocese Vocations Team to help us grow in personal holiness and to pray for a renewal of Christian Vocation in the Church.)