Throughout the season of Advent, the Church prepares for the birth of Jesus. Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit, and became man. Advent not only remembers his First Coming but also reminds the Christian faithful to keep vigil and to stand guard against the attacks of the evil one while joyfully awaiting the Second Coming of our Lord. From December 17-23, the Church chants the “O” Antiphons. These antiphons allude to the messianic promises which find their fulfillment in the incarnate Son of God, the Messiah. The “O” Antiphons illustrate the descent of the humanity of Jesus, this descent of divine love.
At Eastertide, the Church celebrates the solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord. Those who pray Vespers will hear a familiar tone which echoes back to the last days of Advent. The antiphon for the Ascension is also in the form of an “O” Antiphon.
O Rex gloriae, Domine virtutum, qui triumphator hodie super omnes coelos ascendisti; ne derelinquas nos orphanos, sed mitte promissum Patris in nos, spiritum veritatis. Alleluia.
“O King of glory, Lord of all power, who ascended to heaven on this day triumphant over all; Do not leave us as orphans, but send us the Father’s promise, the spirit of truth. Alleluia.”
The same mode that is used for the descent of divine love is now used for the ascent of divine love, the resurrected and glorified humanity of Jesus. For St. Thomas Aquinas, every created reality comes from God (exitus), and everything will then return to God (reditus). In Christ, we see a foreshadowing of all reality coming from God (exitus): "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God…” (John 1:1). So, too, in Christ all things return to God (reditus). When humanity was joined to the divine person in Jesus, God Himself remained forever the same without any change to his divinity. Humanity now experiences a re-creation in and through the life of Christ. By God’s free gift of divine grace, the Christian becomes what Christ is by nature. Jesus’ share of His very life will aid the Christian to fulfill the goal of their entire existence, the knowledge of the Trinity in its unity. (St. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard. Sent I, d.2, exp.)
The Ascension antiphon pleads to God,"do not leave us as orphans." The resolution to our orphanhood is the fulfillment of the Father’s promise: the sending of the Spiritum Veritatis, the Holy Spirit. The Apostle reminds us that, “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God…The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him” (Romans 8:14, 16-17).
May we celebrate the Ascension of the Lord with renewed fervor so that we may be disposed to that which allows us to become by grace what the resurrected, ascended, and glorified Christ is by His nature.
Br. José Maria Barrero, O.P. | Meet the Brothers in Formation HERE