Wednesday 17 May 2023

Look up to heaven

On Monday this week some of the Fathers and Brothers spent the day erecting and moving scaffolding — with all due health and safety measures observed — in order to change and improve the lighting on the sanctuary of our church. It is already a great boon for us to see more clearly the beautiful decoration which adorns that focal point of the whole building, as well as being a great help for the priest reading from the missal. Tomorrow as we celebrate the feast of the Ascension, our eyes are directed upwards once more as Our Risen Lord ascends to heaven and for a moment like the Apostles we gaze upwards as he is taken from our sight.

How very much more clearly do we see when we make that effort to lift up our eyes towards the Lord. We not only contemplate his glory but from that vantage point are able to see all things in their fullness, seeing them from the perspective of heaven. Prayer, the lifting of the mind and heart to God, enables us to understand and to see clearly, all those other things of life in which we are otherwise immersed. That daily shifting our focus from the things of this world to the vantage point of heaven is that great encouragement for our daily striving for God, so that where Christ goes we too may follow him.

It is often an effort for us to pull ourselves out of the daily round in order to lift up our heads and our hearts to the things of heaven, but if we are to have the desire for heaven to drive us on, it is essential that we always keep our goal before us. Not only in prayer, but all those things which form the way we see things must have heaven as their vantage point and aim. Monsignor Knox wrote:

In all ages, in all countries, the world acts as a solvent to Catholic piety; breathes an air in which Catholic piety languishes. Man’s intellect always wants to approach things from the human side, from the side from which they can be known by man; shirks and burkes discussion of things from the side of reality, from the side which relates them to God. Man’s art and literary genius is constantly concerned with man at his most human level, his passions, his craven fears, the rebellion of his will against the order in which he lives. All that breathes a poison, for which writers who care about the truth as it is in God have to provide an antidote; they must fight, they must react, but still more they must see things, they must record things, from that higher standpoint which is God’s. You must, sometimes, give the lungs of your soul an airing on these heights, even if the atmosphere of it is more rare, is breathed with more effort, than the other. Or else, the miasma of the modern world will get you down, will weaken your resistance; you will be a prey to the germs of infidelity, to the infection of bad example. And you will forget your Friend.

As the Church invites us then on the Ascension to gaze up towards heaven, to contemplate Our Lord, Risen and Ascended, it is perhaps a good time for us to think on the place we give to the things of heaven in our life each day — not only in terms of the time we give to heaven, but also in terms of what we strive for, on what really all our efforts are in fact based.

And from our gazing upon heaven, we can then go on like the Apostles, down from that mountain and into the world — to teach the Good News and make disciples of all nations, keeping ever in mind that he whom we meet on those heights of prayer is with us always, even to the end of time.

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