Whitsunday GOSPEL St. John 14:23-31 The Friday Meditation: A Plaine Path-Way To Heaven By Fr.Thomas Hill 1634
ANDREA di Vanni d'Andrea
Ascension of Christ (detail)
John 14:23-31At that time, Jesus said to His disciples: If anyone love Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. He who does not love Me, does not keep My words. And the word that you have heard is not Mine, but the Father’s Who sent Me. These things I have spoken to you while yet dwelling with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My Name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your mind whatever I have said to you. Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, or be afraid. You have heard Me say to you, ‘I go away and I am coming to you.’ If you loved Me, you would indeed rejoice that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it comes to pass, that when it has come to pass you may believe. I will no longer speak much with you, for the prince of the world is coming an in Me he has nothing. But he comes that the world may know that I love the Father, and that I do as the Father has commanded Me.
When almighty God breathed the spirit of breath of natural life into Adams mold, or shape of clay, as is a foresaid, he did it without any preparation of disposition at all; for what could a lump of clay do: But the holy Ghost doth not so breath the spirit or breath of grace, or spiritual life into our souls, but upon some previous or precedent preparation,and disposition of our part, he having created us with a faculty of freewill to help ourselves, which freewill of ours, can command our bodies to execute what we will
These preparations what they are,we may learn out of the circumstances of Christ his Ascension into heaven, which he so ordained that they should be instructions for the disciples then, and for posterity after, to prepare themselves to receive such grace of the holy Ghost, as was requisite for their estate.
The first was this: That day when Christ was to ascend to heaven, he appeared to his disciples, sitting at dinner, and amongst a great deal of sweet and comfortable communication which no doubt he had with them, though it be not expressed in the Scripture, he rebuked them for their incredulity, not believing those that immediately after his resurrection told them he was risen again from death.
This was done not only for them, but for all after comers, to show them, that the first preparation to receive the grace of the holy Ghost, is to examine well our consciences, & finding ourselves faulty, to blame & rebuke ourselves by sorrowful confession of our sins, and so to purge ourselves of them, & expel them out of our souls, for the holy Ghost will not dwell in a body subject to sin: and not only to blame our selves, but to hear, and take in good part such admonitions or brotherly reprehension as are given us of others for our good; which thing doth help us also to purge our souls, to make them a fit receptacle to receive the holy Ghost.
Another is, Christ appointed his disciples to meet him at the mount Olivet, and there he would ascend to heaven in their sight. It was called the Mount Olivet of the store of Olive trees that grew there, which yield oil, which oil is and Emblem, or signification of mercy, oil being a mild, mollifying, and curative thing, as mercy is.
Whereby was signified that we having sorrowed for our sins, and accused ourselves of them in Sacramental Confession,may confide & trust in the mercy of God to ascend to heaven after Christ or head, we being his members.
Another was: The disciples when Christ was ascended out of their sight, still looked and gazed up towards heaven, till two Angels bid them leave, whereby was signified a third preparation, that we must always look up to heaven with the eyes of our soul,and behold Christ Jesus there sitting at the right hand of his father, interceding for us, and continually presenting unto him his death and passion as an incessant Sacrifice, to obtain mercy, and grace for us.
Oh what a comfort and confidence is it for us in our prayers to behold Christ our high priest, sitting at the right hand of his Father, to offer up our prayers and good works, together with the Sacrifice of his death and passion, and presenting his wounds fresh bleeding after a glorified manner, begging and interceding for us. And oh what a comfort is it for us,be still gazing up to heaven, as the disciples were at the Ascension of Christ, especially in Tribulation, to see what is there prepared for us!
This made the disciples take the loss and absence of Christ after his Ascension so patiently and joyfully as they did, considering the glory he went to enjoy,&their own that was to follow. This made the Prophet David by way of joy and admiration to cry out in his meditation and say: Oh what is there form in heaven,and what do I desire here on earth,but thee O Lord!
Devout people attempt often times to build a Church where Christ ascended, but coming to the roof to cover it, what they built in the day; fell down again in the night; whereby was signified, God would have no impediment there for Pilgrims to look up to heaven where ascended thither, for it was a principal place of pilgrimage: neither should we, being pilgrims here on earth, put any worldly impediment,or obstacle to ourselves to hinder us from beholding in prayer and contemplation our Country of Heaven,and Heavenly things.
Moreover Christ when he ascended, standing upon a rock or stone, left the print of his feet in the stone as if it had been in wax or clay, to signify that if we will receive the grace of the holy Ghost our spiritual life, we must endeavor to follow the steps of Christ,how he lived on earth for our example three and thirty years,all his actions being our instructions, which steps of his,he hath left imprinted in holy Scripture, & we must not only follow the steps of Christ,but also of such as follow him.
St.Paul exhorted the Corinthians to be followers of him, as he was of Christ, for to follow them that follow Christ, is to follow Christ: & it is more ready and easy for us to follow them that follow Christ, then to follow Christ,because their examples be extant, and present before our eyes, & therefore do move us more, then the examples of Christ, which are past: for as the Philosopher sayth, things present do move us more, then things past; and thus doth St. John the Evangelist reason: He that loveth not his brother, sayth he whom he seeth, how can he love God whom he seeth not? so he that followeth not his brother whom he seeth, and is subject by nature to same frailties as he is, how can he follow Christ whom he seeth not, and was not subject to those frailties of sin as he is.
And therefore God of his Fatherly goodness towards us, in every age, and in every Country hath some holy ones that are especial followers of Christ, Religious persons & others, to give us example, and as it were to manuduct, and show us the ready way to heaven. Christ commanded his disciples to return from the mount Olivet after his Ascension to the great chamber in Jerusalem where he instituted the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar, and remain there til the coming of the holy Ghost,to signify that it is a principal preparation for the receiving of the grace, and gifts of the holy Ghost, to frequent the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist and to remain constantly in the sweet contemplation and use thereof.
Lastly, why did not Christ send the holy Ghost with more expedition or speed, but make them tarry and expect Ten days? Although there was another reason thereof, to wit that our Pentecost should answer that of the Jews, as is aforesaid in the Sundays Meditation, yet was it also to signify, that our preparation of prayer, meditation, and the like, for the receiving of the graces, & gifts of the holy Ghost, must not be over short nor slight. These are the preparations which we are to make of our part, not that we can do this neither without the grace of the holy Ghost, without which, We cannot so much as think a good thought, as St.Paul telleth us plainly, but if we apply our freewill hereunto, our loving & merciful God will accept thereof, as a thing though not of desert and conformity, or agreeableness with his liberality and mercy.