Archbishop Viganò. Homily on the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord
Posted in Italian on May 18, 2023, by Marco Tosatti at this link.
in the Ascension of Our Lord
By Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò
May 17, 2023
Feast of the Ascension
“Quid admiramini aspicientes in caelum?”
[“Men (of Galilee), why do you stand there in amazement looking up to heaven?”]
In the Introit of today’s Mass we sang: “Viri Galilæi, quid admiramini aspicientes in cælum?” “Men of Galilee, what are you marveling at as you look up to heaven?”
The question is asked by two Angels of the Apostles, who are engrossed in seeing the Lord ascend.
The heavenly messengers’ question is rhetorical: the prodigy which derogates from the laws of nature is nothing, compared to the miracle of the Resurrection to which they will bear witness up until their martyrdom.
“Why are you surprised to see the Lord ascend to heaven? Are you surprised to see Him miraculously ascend to disappear in the clouds, or are you surprised that He is leaving you alone, precisely now that He has risen and can ‘restore the kingdom of Israel'” (cf. Acts 1:6)?
But has He not already told you: I am going to prepare the place for you? And when I have gone away and prepared a place for you, will I come again and take you with me, so that where I am, you too may be (Jn 14:2-3)?
Why didn’t the Lord stay with us? If he had not ascended into heaven so soon, or indeed, if he were still here on earth, he could have traveled and made his Gospel known with the authority of a God who became man, had died and had risen again. Christianity would have spread faster and more successfully, also sparing many martyrs’ lives. If the Lord had remained here on earth, he could have truly restored, in the Catholic Church, the kingdom of Israel, being Himself the one to govern as Pontiff and as King. He would have gone through the centuries without growing old, and this would have been enough to convert to Him the world.
This is why the Apostles are amazed: because they still act and think according to the mentality of the world.
Our Lord, after thirty years of a “hidden” life and three of ministry, in three days defeats the ancient Serpent with his own Passion and Death, regaining at the price of his most precious Blood every soul taken away from eternal salvation by Adam’s sin.
He redeemed us, he bought us slaves of the devil to make us free to no longer be servants but friends (Jn 15:15).
In the forty days following the Resurrection, He taught the Apostles the truths of the Faith and to celebrate the Sacraments, and at the end of this accelerated “seminar” held by none other than the Lord Himself, the time has come to leave the Upper Room: “Go throughout the world, preach the Gospel to all men. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mk 16:15-16). It is his last command, his legacy before he leaves this earth.
Only ten days pass between the Ascension of the Lord and the descent of the Holy Spirit: “You will receive the power of the Holy Spirit, who will come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea, in Samaria and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:7).
The flames of the Paraclete that descend upon the heads of the Apostles and of the Blessed Virgin on the day of Pentecost give birth to the Holy Church, Mystical Body of Christ, and from that moment the doors of the Cenacle — until then closed “for fear of the Jews” (Jn 20:19) — are thrown open and new people emerge, reborn in the Holy Spirit, who no longer think according to the spirit of the world, but according to God. We will sing it in a few days: “Emitte Spiritum tuum, et creabuntur; et renovabis faciem terræ.” (“Send forth Your Spirit, and they will be created; you will renew the face of the earth.”)
The moment they allowed themselves be touched by grace, they changed their way of thinking.
And it is because of this that they understand the need for Ascension.
The Church is born when the Eleven who have remained faithful to their Master understand that that void left on this earth by the Lord, that space of time that goes from His Ascension into heaven to His return in glory at the end of time, must be used to cause to bloom the infinite treasures of the Merits of Christ’s Passion, with the preaching of the Gospel to all nations, with the witness to our Faith, with the conversion of souls to the one Shepherd in the one Fold, in the one Baptism, in the one profession of faith.
The Holy Church is the continuation of the presence of Her divine Head until the end of the world.
It is into her most pure bosom — the Holy of Holies, the Altar of God — that in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, under the Eucharistic veils, the Lord descends with His glorious Body and Blood, His Soul and His Divinity.
And it is men who perform this ineffable miracle, thanks to whose Priesthood Our Lord Jesus Christ remains on this earth, present to the eyes of Faith, a prisoner of the Tabernacle, so that with Saint Thomas we can recognize Him and adore Him as our Lord and our God even without putting fingers in His holy Wounds.
The Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar, the Holy Church’s beating heart, is the divine gift of the Lord who ascends to heaven to His faithful whom He leaves in this land of exile, in this valley of tears, in this battlefield that never knows respite.
And while we remember the mystery of the Ascension by symbolically extinguishing the Paschal candle while singing the Gospel, another flame remains lit: it is the one in the red lamp that burns next to the Tabernacle. It honors the Presence of the King of Kings, who humbles Himself in His infinite magnificence by exposing Himself to irreverence, sacrilege, and the profanation of the wicked, in order to have the consolation of seeing us prostrate before Him, to pray to Him, to thank Him for the favors granted, to implore Him for a grace, to ask Him for forgiveness for our shortcomings, to receive Him in the Most Holy Eucharist and to make our souls the temple of the Most Holy Trinity. To put all our faith, all our hope, all our love in Him: “fac me tibi semper magis crede, in te spem habere, te diligere.” (“Make me believe ever more in you, to have hope in you, to love you.”)
If Our Lord had wanted his own triumph “according to the mentality of the world,” he would have created us without free will, programming us to fulfill only his will, without merit and without guilt. He would not have created even the Angels capable of sin, avoiding having against Him the ranks of rebellious spirits. He would have made us all equal, distributing us equally around the planet, equipping us with the bare necessities and controlling our every action. In short, he would have acted like Klaus Schwab, who would like to enslave us and erase what makes us “human,” and our Creator “wonderfully divine”: our uniqueness, our freedom to love Him and to reciprocate the magnificence of His graces with our misery.
The Lord’s “success” is not accomplished according to the mentality of the world, because if it were so it would be nothing but an illusion, an ephemeral firework, like all worldly things that do not come from God. The “success” of Christ takes place with that delicacy of the father who leaves the son the satisfaction of demonstrating his own abilities to him, the fruit drawn from the father’s teaching. Like the craftsman who, having to be absent, leaves the workshop to the most expert, to give him the opportunity to confirm the well-placed trust. And he knows that, when he comes back, he won’t be disappointed.
Our Lord ascends to heaven because from this moment each of us, and especially the Successors of the Apostles, have the mandate to proclaim God’s salvation in a rebellious and apostate world, to bring the light of Christ into the darkness of sin and death. “I am sending you like sheep among wolves” (Mt 10:16), he told us, foretelling that “a disciple is not worth more than the teacher, nor a servant worth more than his master” (Mt 10:25). This is a moment of trial, which has lasted — with mixed results — for two thousand years: the Church continues to make Christ present on earth, and to offer Him mystically to the Father. But how many wolves, disguised not only as lambs, but even as shepherds! How many corrupt mercenaries, deluded that they can defraud their master before his return! How many traitors who seek to destroy the Church precisely to erase the presence of God and prevent the salvation of souls!
In the question of the two Angels to the Disciples there is a warning: “That Jesus, just as he was taken away from you assumed into heaven, so will return from heaven” (Acts 1:11).
This refers to the end of time, when Our Lord, triumphant over death and sin, will return to judge the living and the dead, to conclude with a universal judgment that victory over the ancient Serpent announced in the Protoevangelium (Gen 3:15), inaugurated with the Incarnation, accomplished with the Passion and Death on the Cross, but still incomplete because it lacks the public condemnation of Satan and his servants. An inexorable condemnation, already written, but which has yet to be pronounced. “Liber scriptus proferetur, in quo totum continetur, unde mundus judicetur,” we sing in the Dies iræ. “The book that has been written, in which everything is contained, will be read and the world will be judged.”
“But when the Son of man comes, will he find faith upon the earth?” (Lk 18, 8). If we look around us, we should say yes, because the adversities we go through allow many souls to convert and return to God, and this celebration is proof of that.
But if we look at the world, we see things that cause terror, starting with the apostasy, corruption and immorality in which the Catholic hierarchy finds itself.
Many of my confreres and many priests think it is easier to promote a soft version of Christianity — humanitarian, environmentalist and globalist — because its “integral edition” is considered unsuitable for the mentality of the world. With a mercantile mentality, they believe they can “rejuvenate the warehouse” by proposing a new “product” that meets the tastes of customers. Undemanding things, as generic as they are reassuring for those who don’t want to change anything in their lives: solidarity, acceptance, inclusion, synodality, resilience, eco-sustainability. And above all: no reference to sin, therefore no original sin, no redemption, but only a “walking together” towards the abyss. The Passion and Death of the Lord is encumbrance, it is divisive, it is not inclusive. It doesn’t build bridges, it builds walls.
But is this perhaps the Faith that the Lord taught the Apostles during the three years of public ministry and, after the Resurrection, until the moment of the Ascension?
Is that why he instituted Holy Orders, and all the Sacraments?
Is this what he commanded all nations to be taught?
For this reason did the Martyrs die in atrocious torments? To be told that the divine mission of the Church to convert peoples is “solemn nonsense”?
For this reason, have the Holy Fathers and Doctors of the Church dedicated their lives to the preaching of doctrine? To listen to the delusional and rambling speeches against those who remain faithful to Holy Tradition, marginalized as “backwards” or “pathological nostalgics”?
Were Catholic priests persecuted for this in Henry VIII’s England or in the France of the Terror? To see prohibited that Mass which is hated by heretics of all times?
The two Angels not only admonish the disciples with their heads up, but also each of us: “That Jesus, who was taken away from you into heaven, so will he return, just as you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).
And when he returns he will ask his administrators what they have done with the priceless talents that he has left them in the coffers of the Holy Church. “Give an account of your stewardship” (Lk 16, 2).
I tremble at the idea of the Judgment of God, who has established the Pope and the Bishops in authority so that they may be “other Christs” and preach the Gospel to all peoples, and today the Church finds Herself infested by a Sanhedrin of hypocrites, heretics and apostates intent on dividing with the mighty of the earth His unfitting garment.
How was the patrimony of Christ, made up of the Sacraments and the Holy Mass, made to blossom and bear fruit? By copying the “Supper” of the Protestants and forbidding the Apostolic Rite?
How were the talents of preaching and apostolate multiplied, the treasures of doctrine of the holy theologians? By promoting irenist ecumenism and sacrilegiously participating in the pantheon of Abu Dhabi’s “Abrahamic religions”? By having the infernal idol of Pachamama worshiped in the Vatican? By encouraging the vices and mocking the virtues? By promoting unworthy Prelates and persecuting good priests?
These corrupt mitered bureaucrats will rush to unearth the treasure they have buried, thinking they can return it with impunity without making any profit, when it was conquered by the Blood of the Lamb.
The Ascension of the Lord shows us that it is His will that we cooperate in the work of salvation, because we are living members of his Body which is the Church, and as such we must docilely follow its divine Head.
He asks the Pastors, whom he has ordered to preach the Gospel and baptize all nations, without leaving any misunderstandings about the condemnation that awaits those who do not convert and those who do not proclaim the Gospel.
Because the authority of Pastors is vicarious, that is, it exists precisely because it is exercised in the physical absence of Our Lord, the sole Head of the Church. “Whoever listens to you listens to Me, and whoever despises you despises Me” (Lk 10:16): these are words that reassure those who are despised by the world because they preach Christ, but which must terrify those who are welcomed by the world because they preach another Gospel in the name of Christ. And woe to him who causes Christ to be despised, because, with Christ’s authority, he spreads error, legitimizes sin and vice, causes scandal with his own way of life.
The Lord goes away without noise, as in silence He has risen.
Alone, He lets Himself be seen by the Disciples, so that the evidence of His Ascension into heaven is followed by Faith in His sacramental presence in the Most Holy Eucharist guarded by the Church, the Hope of reuniting with Him in celestial glory and the ardent Charity in loving Him and one’s neighbor for His sake.
This is the legacy that the Church of Christ has transmitted intact for two thousand years, and that no one can modify or adulterate, deluding himself that he can get away with it: “Deus non irridetur.” (“God is not mocked.”) Because when the Lord returns, he will want to receive back possession of the priceless spiritual goods He has granted to his ministers for administration, and for which they will have to give an account.
Let us all therefore treasure — everyone: from the leaders of the Church to the humblest faithful — the time that remains to us.
Of the time we have left in this mortal life, before finding ourselves before God for the particular Judgment.
Of the time that remains in the world and in the Church before the end of time, before the Last Judgment.
If even just one soul has been won over to Christ by our preaching, by our example, by one of our good words, we will be able to serenely show the Lord that we have multiplied the talents received and hear the answer: “Bravo, good and faithful servant… enter into the joy of your Lord” (Mt 25, 23).
May this hope be valid above all for those the Lord has placed in authority in the Church: this is the intention of the prayers that we place at the feet of the Queen of Apostles and Mother of the Church, Mary Most Holy. And may it be so.
[End, homily for the Feast of the Ascension by Archbishop Viganò]