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Saturday, May 27, 2017

May 28, 2017 Ascension Sunday

2 Chronicles, Chapter 32, Verse 7
“Be strong and steadfast; do not be afraid or dismayed because of the king of Assyria and all the horde coming with him, for there is more with us than with him.

Of course the more of us is the power of the angels of God.

Kings come and Kings go[1]

·         After taking over Israel, King Sennacherib of Assyria comes gunning for Hezekiah in Judah.
·         King Hezekiah immediately gets to work building up defenses in all the most important cities in Judah. He's a good strategic thinker, but he also has one thing that the Assyrians don't—God is on his side.
·         He tells the people of Judah not to worry because God will help them out. Sure, he didn't help Israel or any of the other countless nations the Assyrians have smashed to bits, but he's totally going to help Judah.
·         King Sennacherib sends his people to Jerusalem to give the city a message—you're going down.
·         He throws some shade at Hezekiah, too. Their king is lying to them about God being able to protect them. Seriously, Hezekiah is so bad at ruling that he actually took down all the altars in Judah and just left this one in Jerusalem.
·         Look, King Sennacherib tells them, we've conquered a lot of nations. No god has ever been able to hold us back. What makes you think your God is different?
·         So King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah start to pray and God listens.
·         He sends an angel to kill a lot of people in the Assyrian camp. With his army depleted, King Sennacherib is forced to head back home. Later, his own sons kill him.
·         Hezekiah gets deathly sick and successfully prays to God for healing. He gets into some minor trouble with God, but repents and goes on to do all kinds of successful things as king.
·         God blesses him with immense wealth. Gold, gems, spices, weapons, food, wine, oil, and livestock—you name it, the guy has a whole warehouse full of it.
·         Finally, after a lifetime of righteousness, King Hezekiah dies. Everyone mourns him.

The Gift of Fortitude[2]

The gift of fortitude enables a person “to overcome difficulties or to endure pain and suffering with the strength and power infused by God.” Through fortitude, the Holy Spirit inspires and energizes a person to undertake great things joyfully and without fear despite obstacles. Fortitude operates under the impulse of the Holy Spirit, so it perfects it, charging it with energy, endurance, perseverance and promptness. It strengthens a person to resist evil, to overcome Luke warmness and persevere to everlasting life. Moreover, it brings a confidence of success and certain hope, despite the most difficult circumstances. The gift of fortitude enables the individual to live the other virtues heroically. So, a person can cultivate this virtue by recognizing one’s own weaknesses and limitations, begging for the gift of fortitude, and relying on the strength of Our Lord Jesus Himself. Through fortitude we recognize the need for the strength and nourishment of the holy Eucharist. St. John Chrysostom said, upon receiving holy Communion, “Let us return from that table as lions breathing fire, terrible to the devil,” meaning to go forth not with fear, but with hearts afire with the love of the Lord Himself. We can foster the gift of fortitude by keeping to a spiritual regimen: taking time to pray throughout the day, including 15 minutes devoted to prayer and studying or doing spiritual reading for 15 minutes; making a confession monthly; attending Sunday Mass, and even daily Mass once a week; and making a regular, even daily, examination of conscience. Another part of this spiritual regimen would be to make a purposeful sacrifice daily (e.g. giving up a dessert or a drink or doing an act of charity), for a special intention, like the poor souls in purgatory or the Christians suffering persecution. If we can be faithful and do our duty in “little things,” more likely we will do the same in “big things.”

Hiking[3]

In Central Europe the Feast of the Ascension is a popular time for mountain climbing or picnicking on hilltops. No doubt this is in commemoration of the summit of the Mount of Olives from which Christ ascended and the heights to which he soared. A similarly inspired tradition is eating some kind of bird for the Feast since on this day Christ "flew" to Heaven. 

Ascension Sunday[4]

Ascension commemorates the day that Jesus ascended into Heaven (Acts 1:1-11) after spending 40 days appearing to his disciples after his resurrection.  The disciples thought Jesus was going to restore the earth to the Kingdom of Heaven, but instead, as he promised to send the Holy Spirit to give them power, he ascended into Heaven and disappeared in a cloud.  Ascension is the 40th day after Easter, celebrated on the sixth Sunday of the Easter season in Protestant churches and on the 40th day after Easter in Roman Catholic churches.

Ascension Facts & Quotes

·         The Apostle's Creed, one of the statements of faith in the Christian Church, mentions Jesus' ascension:
o   I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth; And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried.  The third day he rose from the dead.  He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
·         An ancient custom in England, called the Beating of the Bounds, is often performed on or near Ascension.  Before maps, this was the day that people would mark the boundaries of their property with stones marked with chalk.  Some English churches still perform the custom, led by the vicar.  Church members carry sticks to wick at weeds as they process.
·         In the Orthodox tradition, celebration of the Jesus' Ascension starts with an all-night vigil or vespers (evening) service beginning on Saturday.
·         Jesus' ascension into heaven does not mean his absence, but that he is alive among us in a new way, close to each one of us.  - Pope Francis via Twitter on 4/17/2013

Ascension Top Events and Things to Do

·         Johann Sebastian Bach wrote several pieces related to both Easter and the Ascension.  Listen to Bach's the Ascension Oratorio, Lobet Gott in seinen Reichen (Praise God in His Kingdoms) on YouTube.
·         Go bird watching.  A custom in Sweden, is to get up early in the morning of Ascension and venture out into the woods to listen for the call of a cuckoo.  It is considered good luck to hear one on this holiday.
·         Go to church and learn about why Jesus' ascension is important to the Christian faith.  Jesus is considered to be both human and divine, and the ascension is an illustration of Christ's divine nature.
·         View paintings that depict the ascension.  One of the most famous works is The Ascension Of Christ by Rembrandt Van Rijn.

Daily Devotions/Prayers

·         Drops of Christ’s Blood
·         Novena to the Holy Spirit


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