Ascension Day: Word and Silence

Today Catholics in England and Wales (and many other countries, too) celebrate the Solemnity of the Ascension. It is also World Communications Day, the theme of which this year is Word and Silence. There are lots of connections between the two we might explore, but let me suggest just one.

When the Word of God was lifted up from the earth on the Cross of Calvary, He desired to draw all to himself; but he still had more words to speak after his Resurrection from the dead. Today the Word of God is lifted up into the heavens and we shall hear his voice no more. The Word has passed into the silence of union with the Father. In that silence, in that union, he is closer to us than ever — dare I say, more effective than ever, because he is no longer limited by earthly presence. Now, truly, he draws all to himself.

But what about us, left gazing up into the skies? Are we left high and dry, so to say? We have the Lord’s promise, that he will be with us always, to the end of time; but how are we to understand that if we no longer hear his voice? Perhaps our trouble is that we have not grasped this new mode of being that the Ascension marks. We have a new lesson to learn. If we would understand God’s Word, we must enter into his silence and await his coming. In the meantime, we must ask the Holy Spirit to illumine our understanding. Our prayer now is veni, illumina, confirma (come, enlighten, strengthen), for we too must communicate the Word of God to others, must take on ourselves the mission of the Church.

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5 thoughts on “Ascension Day: Word and Silence”

  1. ‘take on ourselves the mission of the Church’ …. could this’ some time in the future be a suject for an online retreat?

  2. Based on what you have said here, I have a feeling that my concept The Word, with a capital W, probably doesn’t encapsulate everything that it does to you. This might be due to my not-especially-Catholic background, or just general ignorance. Could you (or any other reader) point me in the direction of any reading that might widen my perspective? Thanks!

  3. When I write Word with a capital ‘W’, I am usually referring to both Jesus, the definitive Word of God (cf Prologue to John’s Gospel), and sacred Scripture. Behind the reference is a lifetime (almost!) of reading patristics (early Christian writers) which means that there are, for me, echoes of these other writers attached to the words I use. Becoming familiar with the great body of writing we refer to as the Fathers of the Church takes time and effort, but there are some excellent introductions around if you would like to explore further. If you live in the U.S.A., ‘The Fathers of the Church’ edited by Michael J. Aquilina would be a good place to start.

  4. Thanks – I haven’t read through John in a while, and have just gone back through the first chapter. Its refreshed my memory, and reminded me that I really ought to spend a little more time perusing my Bible!

    I am in the UK, but I may still be able to track down a copy of the book you suggested. 🙂

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