Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!
In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“Thus saith the Lord: ‘In the last days the mountain of the Lord shall be glorious, and the house of God shall be on the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall come to it. . . . .’”
On this great feast of the Ascension of our Lord into Heaven to sit at the Father’s right hand in glory (Nicene Creed; Anaphora; 1 Pe. 3:22), two things are apparent: First, our Lord goes “up,” that is, He ascends to the Father, and second, the Lord God dwells on a mountain, that is to say, mountains in Sacred Scripture become the locus of divine activity. As I had noted to some of you during our catechetical study on discipleship, that God is “up” is more of a liturgical direction than anything else. In liturgical terms, to “face East” is to face the Altar where God dwells whether or not it is true geographical East. We go “up” to the Altar, even if it is not elevated. So, if we wish to see God we must look up where God is; if we wish to see the dead we look down, just as our Lord Who ascends into Heaven first descended into Hades where death and the devil have their domain.
Indeed, God the omnipresent is not limited by such language, but indeed is “present everywhere and fillest all things” (O Heavenly King). Or, in the words of the psalmist, “Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from Thy Presence? If I ascend up into Heaven, Thou art there; if I make my bed in Sheol [Hades], behold, Thou art there” (Ps. 138 :7-8). In the Psalms of Ascent (Ps. 119-133 [120-134]) prayed as one went “up” to the Temple to worship, the psalmist prays, “In mine affliction I cried to the Lord, and He listened to me. . . . I lifted up mine eyes to the mountains, whence my help shall come. My help shall come from the Lord, Who made the Heaven and the earth” (Ps. 119 :1; 120 :1-2).
Mountains figure prominently in Sacred Scripture because God dwells on the mountain. The house of the Lord is on the mountain to which the nations will flow in search of the wisdom of God. Paradise is located in Genesis on God’s mountain (Ek. 28:1-26). Moses ascends Mt. Sinai to be with God. The Temple in Jerusalem is located on the temple mount, that is, Mt. Zion, which worshippers must go up. There is Mt. Olivet, the locus of divine activity in today’s reading from Acts (Ac. 1:1-12). There is Mt. Calvary where the Lamb of God was sacrificed or offered up on the Altar of the Cross. There is the mountain our Lord went up, sat down on, opened His mouth as God by Whose every Word we live, and taught His now famous Sermon on the Mount (Dt. 8:3; Mt. 4:4; 5:1-7:29). We should also note that competing deities are also found on mountains. The story of the Tower of Babel is about man constructing a competing mountain with a competing deity – man himself!
Although Mt. Zion is by far not a Mt. Everest, nonetheless, “’In the last days the mountain of the Lord shall be glorious, and the house of God shall be on the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills.’” The mountain of God shall dwarf all the other mountains round about and silence all the competing deities. Indeed, it alone shall be sought out by the nations who will stream to it precisely because there they will find the Truth. “’He will tell us His way, and we will walk in it’” (Mc. 4:1-13).
Beloved in the Lord, today we celebrate our Lord’s Ascension. By ascending to the Father He will send His Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, thereby enthroning Himself in His Church, the Mountain of God prophesied here in Sacred Scripture. St. Paul speaks of the Church in terms familiar to the Prophet Isaiah today. Our Lord gives Himself up for His heavenly Bride
that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the Word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish (Ep. 5:25-27).
In the Epistle to the Hebrews, St. Paul tells us, “But you have come to Mt. Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and Church of the firstborn who are registered in Heaven, . . . .” (Hb. 12:18-27). The Church is spoken of as the New Jerusalem and likened to Mt. Zion, in Sacred Scripture. The Church is the mountain of God where God Himself dwells with His people. It is not like the time Moses ascended Mt. Sinai and the mountain quaked and smoked, causing the people to fear and withdraw, but rather the Church as the mountain of God is blessing and mercy and grace (Chromatius; Augustine). The Church of the living God is the locus of divine activity in which God and man once more commune in the “one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus” (1 Tm. 2:5; 3:15). Our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ ascends so that in the sending of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost He can be present at all times and in all places with His baptized. He ascends so that He may draw His Church up with Him to higher things and restores us once more to Paradise – to the mountain of Eden (Jerome; Chromatius; Ps. 67 :1-35; Ep. 4:8-10).
Thus saith the Lord: ‘In the last days the mountain of the Lord shall be glorious, and the house of God shall be on the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall come to it. And many nations shall go and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will tell us His way, and we will walk in it.”’
Through the prayers of our holy Fathers, O Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!
VIGIL PROPERS: PROPERS:
Is. 2:2-3 Ac. 1:1-12
Is. 62:10-63:3 Lk. 24:36-53
Zc. 14:1, 4, 8-11