Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord

Back in December we were taking our leave of others with the words, Merry Christmas, or Blessed Christmas, or the much too secular but sooooo politically correct, Have a Happy Holiday.  Forty days ago the wish to others was for a Happy and Blessed Easter.  What about the Solemnity of the Ascension?  I’ve yet to see a card for the Ascension or hear any kind of greeting.  

There is something odd about the disconnection of the episodes of what is called “the glorification event.”  The glorification event is comprised of Jesus’ birth, death, resurrection and ascension into heaven.  None of these moments in Jesus’ life happened in a vacuum unrelated to the others.  None can stand alone.

Jesus’ birth is, of course, the most problematic when it comes to standing alone.  Too many isolate Jesus’ birth from all that followed.  But, were it not for the events of Good Friday, Easter Sunday, and the Ascension, what we call “the Christmas Story” would make no sense whatsoever.  It would be nothing more than a pretty story without any meaning or relevance.  As Dag Hammarskjold wrote in a haiku that frequently serves as my meditation,

"On Christmas Eve, Good Friday
was foretold them
in a trumpet fanfare"

Similarly Jesus’ resurrection and ascension are of a piece.  Jesuit Father Stanley Marrow put it well. "We must beware of isolating discrete moments in what is one continuous event in the revelation of God.  He who is born of Mary is he who dies on the cross, is he who rises from the dead, returns to the Father who sent him, and sends his Holy Spirit on all who confess him as Lord and Son of God.” In ten days we will come to the end of the Easter Season.  Ordinary time will continue throughout the spring, summer, and most of autumn until 1 December 2013 when we celebrate the first Sunday of Advent and prepare to recall the glorification event—Jesus’ birth, death, resurrection, and ascension—yet again. 

May you all have a Happy Ascension Thursday and receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost with overwhelming joy.
Busy time.  Last weekend Ignatius and I were in D.C. to concelebrate a bilingual Mandarin Chinese-English wedding for two medical students.  Ignatius forced me into the decision to fly rather than drive both ways (about 8 or 9 hours each way).  Good move on his part.  We arrived early Thursday AM and had time to spend the afternoon at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on the campus of Catholic University.  A few of the over 200 photos I took will appear below.  Friday was the Library of Congress and wandering around D.C.  

The wedding was terrific.  It is not the Taiwanese custom to keep the bride (who was Taiwanese-American) in "cloister" prior to entering the church.  When we arrived at Dahlgren Quad at Georgetown the entire wedding party and all the families were milling around enjoying the glorious weather.  It was refreshing.  It was no less moving to see the bride approach the altar on her father's arm.  It was nice to avoid the drama.

After the wedding banquet in Falls Church Ignatius and I went to wander around the monuments at night.  I did not have the camera with me.  The Lincoln Memorial is attractive during the day but it is spectacular at night.  We also visited the Viet Nam and WW II memorials.   On Sunday we split up, Ignatius to visit with Taiwanese friends in the D.C. area and me to celebrate Mass at the Visitation Monastery, lunch with a friend and dinner with my cousin Sue in Silver Spring.  Early flight home on Monday.  

This week I teach my last class at BC.  It was great.  Hope to do it again.  But I will admit to looking forward to the summer break.

A bunch of photos from the Shrine and three from our wanderings in D.C. on Friday. 

I didn't have the tripod and choose to shoot handheld with a high ISO (800 to 1600) in the Shrine.  I've not done much of that but will do more now that the results are good. 

The main altar as seen from the back of the Shrine.  I love the Shrine.  After my follow-up with the cardiac surgeon at the nearby Washington Hospital Center I went over there to pray in thanksgiving.  
 Organ pipes perched high above the main altar to the left. 
This mosaic is one of the newest.  It was sponsored by the Knights of Columbus.  I remember when it was unveiled some time just before I went to tertianship.  It is toward the back of the main church.  
There are banks of candles at every chapel.  It is nice that they are real and not the absurd electric ones parishes seem to be adopting.
The sacristy of the main church is huge.  I've never been in there.  The day after returning from tertianship I celebrated Mass in the Crypt Church on the lower level, where the sacristy is only slightly smaller.  Will save photos of the crypt for a later entry. 
Every one of the chapels in the Shrine is dedicated to Our Lady.  The following three are the Byzantine-Ruthenian Chapel, Our Lady of Lebanon, and Our Lady of La Vang, constructed in memory of the Vietnamese Martyrs.  

And three photos from the secular part of the trip. 
The first is George Gershwin's piano at the Library of Congress.  That is close to a first-class relic.  
Then a hallway in the Library. Not exactly understated.
This last is the back of the U.S. Capitol Building in a reflecting pond.  It was tinted, adjusted, cropped and put through its paces to get this abstract effect.  
+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

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