We are in the octave of the Feast of the Ascension, the eight days following Ascension Day on Thursday, the end of the season of Eastertide, and the snuffing out of the fifty-day Paschal Candle.
The candle is no longer lit, but the Ascension fills us with hope, the hope of life, of living eternally in the love of God our Creator. And it is his love that makes life possible, to be sure, given the death all around us, Rachel mourning for her children, for they are no more. Life would be impossible without the love of God, the hope of Christ, and the comfort and power of the Holy Spirit. But we have all three in abundance.
By now the butchering of our children, born and unborn, is well known, for many of those who engage in this industry appear proud of their deeds, broadcasting their “rights.” Others call it evil and wonder how we arrived at such an impasse in America and the West. We look the other way. We hide, silent, in fear of reprisal, accused of hate speech. And those who mutilate and maim in the name of transgenderism or, in the case of the unborn, dismember living babies at the convenience of the mother, threaten our world with barbarism. No, I will rephrase. Barbarism is here. But there are saints and angels among us still.
And so, in this merry month of May, the month of mothers and Mother Mary, I was glad to be reminded of a heroine who is not afraid to speak out. I have mentioned Dr. Monique Robles, pediatrician and bioethicist, in these pages earlier. She is now offering consultations in addition to her earlier offer of serving as an expert witness in cases involving the rights of parents and children, defending them against those who hunt and haunt children both for their own political purposes and monetary gain (think hospitals and pharmacy companies). For more information, visit her website to become acquainted with this brave and articulate spokesperson for parents and children.
Heroes and heroines abound, and we must support their work in any way we can, so that in the final accounting of our lives, we hear the coveted words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” The door to Heaven opens and we ascend to be with not only loved ones but the angels and the saints and the Lord of Life himself.
My spirits ascended this morning in church. I experienced a moment of grace, or rather, many moments of grace. The ascension of Christ to Heaven, after his resurrection from the dead, lifts my spirits upwards, to be with him, to encounter him, right there in our little chapel on the corner of Bowditch and Durant. This happens, to be sure, in the Eucharist itself, but the ascending and soaring of our songs of praise, the cantor’s amber rising tones, the organ’s deep notes that flew high into the vaulted dome and out the clerestory windows above, out onto the busy streets of graduation and cars and boomboxes, all pulled me along. Surely I had wings to fly. Surely my feet were no longer touching the ground. I thought of Catherine of Siena and how she levitated during her devotions in her chapel, literally rose a foot or so from the floor. She too ascended in that moment to meet Christ and was given the stigmata, the wounds of crucifixion on the hands, unseen but no doubt felt.
We are heavy human beings, you and I. Our weight grounds us with gravity. To soar with the Holy Spirit and the angels for a few minutes each week reminds us that we are more than creatures of flesh. We know this deep within. We long for beauty, truth, and goodness, for love, for the intangible made tangible so that we may ascend to meet it. Our longings fill us with hope, and perhaps for some, with dread. Mystery and miracle, in the Incarnation of Christ, touch us, wound us. We know and understand, for we have the Mass, the liturgy of mystery and miracle. We know and understand enough to feel only joy. Fear and dread are vanquished.
Even so, we must live on this earth and help to redeem it with our love.
For at the end of the day, it is love – love of the unlovable, the unwanted, the undesired, the inconvenient – that calls the Holy Spirit to be with us. It is love that responds. It is love that swirls in our little chapel, linking our family of God, and joining us together in the bread and the wine, in the Real Presence of Christ.
We leave the chapel, knowing we are reborn once again, knowing we are stirred up and sent out to walk among the evil that we see and sense, to save those we can from the ways of death, both physical and spiritual.
We ascended today, then descended back into the world, feet firmly planted on the earth but with memory of Heaven.