Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Ascension Day

Today has been Ascension Day, a feast I prefer to observe on the traditional day rather than the transferred solemnity of next Sunday - though as I have always been drawn to the rich imagery of Ascension I do not objrect to keeping it all over again on Sunday. 

Personally I regret the decsion a few years ago to transfer the obligation to the following Sunday, and would wish, with all due respect, the Bishops of England and Wales to reverse their request for the transfer of the day to the Vatican.  Not only is the traditional day scriptural, it is also the day still observed in Scotland by Catholics, and by the other Christian communities in England and Wales. in a country where the Catholic Church represents a minority of the total population it does appear to be lacking in sensitivity to one's neighbours not to observe one of the main feasts of Our Lord on the same day as everyone else.

Fortunately one of the benefits of Summorum Pontificum has been the ability of priest to celebrate according to the calendar of the Missal as promulgated by Bl.John XXIII, and as aresult I was able to attend the Low Mass for the Ascension at the Oxford Oratory this lunchtime.

To continue the mood of celebration, after afternoon tea with a friend, I was able to go to a beautiful Missa cantata at SS Gregory and Augustine in north Oxford, which was celebrated by Fr Saward. Had I not done that I would have had the option of going out to Dorchester on Thames where there was a sung Hugh Mass at the church of St Birinus.

As it was we joined another friend to go to a celebratory dinner with others at a house in Headington, and maintained the mood of exultation by filling the car with the strains of the Hallelujah Chorus from the CD player as we drove through north Oxford.

The Ascension
El Greco, 1577 
The Prado

Image: Wikipedia

Last year I posted some reflections on this great painting by El Greco, and I am returning to the themes it contains. As a painting it could as well be designated the Holy Trinity, but I see it described in catalogues as being the Ascension.

Unlike othe paintings of the subject it has a dynamic that goes beyond the tableau vivante. It conveys in the exhausted physicallity of the Son the cost of winning our redemption, and indeed the dramatic surge of Ascension in terms that point to the fact that salvation was wrought in human flesh taken on in the Incarnation by the Divine. Christ in His flesh pleads His wounds to His Father on our behalf, the point Fr Saward stressed in his homily this evening.

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