02 June 2011

Ascension Thursday

Today is the traditional Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord. At Matins, the Carthusians heard a homily by Johannes Tauler, a fourteenth-century German-born mystic of the Order of Saint Dominic. Here’s what the monks reflected on:

After Christ had eaten with His disciples on the Mount of Olives, and reproved them, that they had spent so long a time with Him and yet were still slow to believe, before their eyes He ascended into heaven. Children, imagine how agonizing was the pain of the hearts of the disciples, who loved Him so extraordinarily; for it was not unreasonable that they should be filled with a restless, sorrowful heart yearning to follow after Him – for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. The Ascension of Jesus Christ wills to draw after Him the hearts and minds of all His friends, and all their powers, inward and outward, that we may not dwell with contentment and satisfaction among the things of time; but that our walk and conversation, pleasure and satisfaction, may be in heaven. It cannot be otherwise but that the members should follow their Head, Who, as on this day, has ascended into heaven to prepare a place for those who shall come after Him; therefore we should say with the Bride in the Song of Songs: Draw me, and I will come after You.

And who can stop us from following evermore after our Head? For He has said: I ascend to My Father and your Father. His origin, His end, His blessedness and our blessedness, is truly a blessedness in Him. We have proceeded from the same origin, and therefore are partakers of the same end. Dear children, let us meditate how Christ has gone before us into the glory of His heavenly Father. We must observe the Way He has shown us and trodden for thirty-three years in poverty and in bitterness, even unto death. Likewise, we must follow the same path, if we wish to enter with Him into the Kingdom of heaven. Although all our teachers were dead and all our books burned, yet we should ever find instruction in His holy life. For He Himself is the Way, the Truth and the Life; and by no other way can we truly advance towards the same consummation, than in that which He has walked as our Exemplar while He was on earth.

As a magnetized stone attracts iron, so does Christ draw to Himself all hearts that were touched by Him. When iron is touched by the force of a magnetized rock, it rises above its natural quality, and it follows the stone uphill, even though that is contrary to its nature, and cannot rest in its own proper place, but strives to rise above itself. For all the souls that have been touched by the magnet Who is Christ, cannot be chained down by joy or grief, but are ever rising up out of themselves to God. They forget their own nature and follow after the touch of God, and follow it with all the greater purity, truth and availability, and nobly they have been touched by Him. Now let each one mark for himself, whether his soul has been touched by God or not. Those who have not been touched by God often begin many excellent undertakings from which we might expect great things to happen; but if we watch them for a time, behold it all comes to nothing, for they soon fall back again, and they plunge into their old customs and their natural inclinations.

Children, if our souls have not been touched by God, we have no right to blame Him, as people often say: ‘God does not touch me or move me as He does with others’. God touches, impels and admonishes everyone equally. His touch, His admonitions and His gifts find a different reception and response in different persons. With many, when God comes to them with His touch and His gracious gifts, He finds the chambers of their soul occupied and defiled by other guests. So then, He must go His way, and cannot come into us, for we are loving and serving someone else. Therefore, His gifts, which He offers unceasingly, remain unaccepted. This is the cause of our eternal loss: the guilt is ours, not God’s. How much useless trouble do we create for ourselves; insomuch that we never perceive our own condition nor God’s preference, and thereby do ourselves an unspeakable and eternal mischief. There is no better remedy for this than hearty, fervent, continual prayer. We may obtain this steadfastness, together with a firm, and entire, and loving trust in the unfathomable mercy of God, in which lies all our salvation, and with a diligent and faithful watchfulness, to keep our goings in accordance with the will of God.