|c14th The Ascension of Elijah|
A commenter on my previous post, Felix, noted that at Mass on Sunday he got the 'Ascension is not a historical event' sermon.
Having Ascension on the actual day specified in Scripture, rather than moved to the nearest Sunday, would surely help counter this kind of error! But something else that would surely help is restoration of the old Octave of the Ascension.
With an Octave, the Mass propers, and perhaps more importantly in this context, the texts at Matins (Office of Readings) all provided the priest with some serious doctrinal foundations on which to draw for his sermons. Perhaps the problem is in part that, starved of the serious instruction of the older form of the Breviary and ancient calendar, error creeps in to fill the gap!
So I thought I'd post a few of the readings that were set down for this period in the pre-1962 calendar, so you can appreciate the riches that could be restored with a little judicious calendar reform.
Today's readings takes us back to the Old Testament foreshadowing of the Ascension, in Elijah and Enoch.
Sermon of St Gregory on the Gospel of St Mark, set for Matins at Monday in the Octave of Ascension
"So then, after the Lord Jesus had spoken unto them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven, where he now sits on the right hand of God. We learn in the Old Testament that Elijah was taken up into heaven. But this word Heaven is used in various senses. For example, it can mean either the terrestrial atmosphere (that is, the aeriel heaven), or something which is not of the sphere of this planet (that is, the ethereal heaven), and of these, the aerial heaven is close to the earth ; whence we speak of the birds flying in the heavens. So has come to pass the belief, that it was only up into this aeriel heaven that Elijah was taken ; that he might thence be carried off suddenly into some part of the earth, to us unknown, and there live in profound peace of body and soul, until the end of the world, when he will return and pay the debt of nature. On this wise, we may say that death waits but is not escaped. But our Redeemer made it not to wait for him, but conquered it, and by rising again shattered it, and by his Ascension shows forth the glory of his resurrection.
We must mark also, how that Elijah was taken up in a chariot, as though to show plainly that for a mere man some outward help was need.ed This help was given to him by Angels, as plainly appeared, since it was impossible for one whom a weak nature yet weighed down earthward, to fly up even into the atmosphere. But of our Redeemer we read not that he was borne up in a chariot, or by Angels, since he, by whom all things were made, clearly rose above all things by his own power from on high. He returned unto him with whom he already was ; and whither he returned, there he hath always been; because, even though in his Manhood he ascended up into heaven, yet in his Godhead, he still comprehended both heaven and earth.
But as the sale of Joseph by his brethren was a type of the sale of Christ, so were the translations of Enoch and Elijah types of Christ's Ascension. Therefore the Lord had, as forerunners and witnesses of his Ascension, the one before the Law, another under the Law, to signify how he himself would one day come, who was able indeed to pass into the heavens. Hence also there is some difference to be observed in the manner wherein each was translated. Enoch was seen no more, for God took him. Elijah was carried up by a whirlwind into heaven. But he that came after them was not taken up, nor carried up, but went up through space by his own power from on high."