Thursday, May 29, 2014

In Die Ascensionis Domini

Artist unknown; from
Surely, most Egg readers are too busy preparing their Ascension services to read a blog.  But if you have found a few moments to relax between Matins and the Communion service, welcome.

We ourselves, we confess with a blush, have no service of public worship planned today.  But one of the Bible study groups here at Paradise in the Piedmont has planned a potluck, at which we will remind them that today is one of the great feasts of the Christian year.  Perhaps, God willing, some pious conversation will ensue, between the second casserole and the Jello salad.

As you know, it was a sermon on the Ascension that provoked oen of St. Augustine's most memorable images:

The Devil exulted when Christ died, and in the death of Christ itself is the Devil conquered.  The mousetrap for the Devil is the Cross of the Lord; the bait that is taken, the Lord's death.

Occasionally, in art, one sees St. Joseph working in his woodshop.  And there in the corner, sometimes -- as in the famous Campin altarpiece housed at the Cloisters -- is a mousetrap.  It's a reference to this particular sermon.

Of the Ascension itself, Augustine says that Christ "rose again, that he might show us an example of the general resurrection; ... he ascended, that he might protect us from above."

Perhaps more usefully, he adds that Christ "paid the price for us, when he hung upon the tree; and he gathers what he purchased, now that he sits in heaven."

In addition to paintings of mousetraps and disappearing feet (the latter being our favorite image evah), the Ascension has prompted some people to write poetry.

Read, if you must, John Keble's piece on it in The Christian Year; it will remind you why Keble is neither taught in schools nor sung in churches.

More to our taste is John Donne's sonnet, from the cycle La Corona:

O strong Ram which hast battered heaven for me,
Mild lamb, which with thy blood, hast marked the path;
Bright Torch, which shin'st, that I the way may see,
Oh, with thy own blood quench thy own just wrath.
But to be honest, what we really love most are those disappearing feet.  Here are a few examples.

A medieval church:

Stained glass, 1480, Norfolk (
A beautiful modern take by Sarah Drescher Braswell:

And from the Shrine of Our lady of Walsingham, courtesy of Mr Gog:

This picture, like the Ascension itself, is a little out of focus, but still fascinating.

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