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Lindemann on Exaudi: The Sunday After the Ascension

by revalkorn ~ June 6th, 2011

My apologies for getting this up too late for this year.

EXAUDI, THE SUNDAY AFTER THE ASCENSION

This Sunday in the Octave of the Feast of the Ascension is a transition to the Feast of Pentecost, to be observed in eight days. Exaudi marks a unique period in the life of the disciples. The moment of separation from their Lord is but a few days back. The promise of a new Comforter and Guide is still to be realized. The Lord has ascended, the Comforter has not yet descended. Exaudi, hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice. Leave me not comfortless, orphaned, alone. Hide not Thy face from me. It is the time of waiting with the expectation founded on the promise of the victorious and glorified Christ. It is Dominica expectationis.

This day’s Liturgy fails to strike the tone of previous Sundays, which was joyful with hardly a trace of pain at the prospect of separation. On the Feast of the Ascension we rejoiced over Christ’s triumph and the elevation of our human nature. Our inmost prayer was to live in heaven. There was no trace of sorrow and regret over the departure of the beloved Master. Dry-eyed the Church gazed on our Lord’s ascent into heaven and His departure from our midst. in-deed we rejoiced over His glorification and return to the Father. Today, however, the Church’s sentiments are different. The Liturgy grows soft and lyrical. There is much warmth and sentiment. The Church is melancholy, in need of comfort, and full of longing for her Lord, who has gone away. We can hardly recognize the Liturgy, usually so totally objective but now betraying a heart filled with deep emotion. Dominica expectationis strikes a chord composed of three notes: Easter and victory; Ascension and reigning, glory; Pentecost and grace.

The Introit. “Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice. Alleluia! When Thou saidst, Seek ye My face, my heart said unto Thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek. Hide not Thy face from me. Alleluia! Alleluia! The Lord is my Light and my Salvation; whom shall I fear?”

Here we see at once the difference from previous Sundays. No rejoicing, no praise, only the longing petition to see the Lord’s face, the primitive Christians’ longing for the Parousia. At the Ascension the angel said: “This Jesus will come in the same way as you saw Him go to heaven.” Today, on the third day after, we pray with the Apostles: “Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus.” The reading of the en-tire Twenty-seventh Psalm will deepen and intensify this mood. As we sing the following Kyrie, it becomes the song of the exiles and orphans today. In the Gloria in Excelsis we look up longingly to the Lord, who sits at the right hand of the Father.

The Collect. “Almighty, everlasting God, make us to have always a devout will toward Thee and to serve Thy Majesty with a pure heart.”

We pray for a truly Christian life, for a devout will and a pure heart. Here lies the center of all piety. All this is contained in the Collect: What Abraham gave up when he was willing to sacrifice his son Isaac; what Mary said in her great hour, “I am the handmaid of the Lord”; what Christ prayed in the terror of death, “Father, if Thou art willing, remove this cup from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Thine, be done”; what was the principle of His life, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me”; what our Lord included in the Our Father, “Thy will be done.”

The Epistle (1 Peter 4:7-11). Because the end is at hand, we are to keep sane and sober for our prayers. We are to grow into the holy communion of the Church. We are to practice communal prayer and loving service. The charismata and offices serve to edify the mystical body. To inspire and unfold the Lord’s mystical body is the function of the Holy Spirit.

The Gradual. “Alleluia! Alleluia! God reigneth over the heathen; God sit-teth upon the throne of His holiness. Alleluia! I will not leave you comfortless. I go, and I will come again to you, and your heart shall rejoice. Alleluia!”

We cast one brief look into heaven and see the Lord as King at the right hand of the Father. Affectionately He bends down to His beloved and comforts them: I will not leave you orphans,

I will come again to you, and your heart will rejoice. This will be fulfilled at His second coming, but now that return is prefigured in the Gospel and the Eucharist. This is our relation to Christ: We see Him as King on the throne; in the Liturgy He always comes again, and our hearts rejoice.

The Proper Sentence. “Alleluia! Christ, our Passover, is sacrificed for us. Alleluia!

The Gospel (St. John 15:26-16:4). We have here the twofold teaching that the Holy Spirit will come and witness to Christ an that we, too, must be witnesses of Christ. The Apostles witnessed by bleeding and dying; we are to witness by faithfulness and love. Our witness is to consist, as the Collect puts it, in a devout will and the service of a pure heart and, according to the Epistle, in love and faithfulness to duty.

The Proper Preface. “Who after His resurrection appeared openly to all His disciples and in their sight was taken up into heaven that He might make us partakers of His divine nature.”

OUTLINE FOR SERMON ON THE EPISTLE

This Sunday between our Lord’s Ascension and His promised gift of the Spirit is well described by its ancient name of Dominica expectationis, or Waiting Sunday, in reference to the command “to wait for the promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4) and with a second reference to our time of waiting — “until He comes” (1 Cor. 11:26) who has ascended into heaven. From Christ’s Ascension we look at once for His return. Between His departure and His return lies the whole history of the Church. The faithfulness of Christ’s Church to her absent Lord, and this in view of His return, is the lesson for the day. We are taught how to behave until our Lord comes again, in regard to those within the Church and in regard to those as yet outside. The Epistle teaches

The Internal Duties of the Church

A. A Vivid Sense of Christ’s Speedy Return. This is the teaching of the various parables dealing with absent masters recorded in the Gospels and ever present to St. Peter’s memory. It is all the same to us individually whether our Lord comes to us or calls us to go to meet Him, and this thought should keep us “Sane and sober.” Not plunging too deeply into the business cares and pleasures of the quickly passing world, and ever watchful against temptation and looking for the signs of His coming, watching on our knees, “for our prayers.”

B. An Intense Mutual Love. People who look for one Lord must draw closer together, encouraging one another, “all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Heb. 10:25). Love is the greatest preparation for that day, and the loving are always ready. Our Lord will not find great faults in a loving Church, for “love covers a multitude of sins.” He will forgive those who forgive others. “If we walk in the light, as He is the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, cleanses us from all sin.” Love that gathers in all outcasts, keeps the flock from straying, feeds the sheep and tends the lambs, is dear to the Good Shepherd, who at His coming will not ask our faith but our love. This love must be practically shown in hospitality. The open heart must keep an open door. No difference of rank, wealth, or culture must separate those whose relationship to Christ is that they are members of His Church. Still less must varying degrees of spirituality cause the stronger to separate themselves from the weaker.

C. An Intense Sense of Responsibility. Every member of the Church in his vocation and ministry must regard himself as a steward, a person who stands in two relations, the one in respect to the Master, to whom he is responsible, the other in respect to the fellow servants for whom he is responsible. All are stewards, for “each has received a gift,” and our gifts are not intended to be marks of distinction but opportunities for service, are not given absolutely but in trust, for the good of others. Some have received gifts of position, education, leisure, or wealth. Some have received gifts of speech, attractiveness, a power of persuasion to move men’s hearts. Some have received gifts of practical ability and capacity to arrange, organize, and direct. None must spend his time in amusing himself, or even refining himself in luxurious intellectuality, or in a selfish use of his powers for display or for wealth, but, finding his gift and his sphere, use the one for the other.

OUTLINE FOR SERMON ON THE HOLY GOSPEL

The Epistle presents the Church of Christ as the body Of Christian people always expectant, loving, and attentive to duty. In the Holy Gospel we consider the Church in relation to the world, as bearing witness for Christ. The waiting Church is

The Witnessing Church

A. The Power for Witness. The witness of the Church is not only for Christ but from Christ. True, the disciples were to have part in it as qualified by their knowledge of Christ and by what they had seen and heard from the beginning of His ministry. They would testify by their truthful evidence as eyewitnesses and earwitnesses. But the Spirit sent by Christ from the Father would give force to their evidence; would give utterance and convincing power to their words, and support their testimony by miracles. Of this enabled witness the New Testament is the summary. As the work of witness is for all ages, so in all ages the great defender of the truth will be the Holy Spirit, raising up effective witnesses for Christ and giving divine force to their testimony. In every age He will give the assurance of supernatural power manifested in our lives as love and holiness and in our minds as truth and wisdom.

B. The Difficulties of Witness. These were evident in the first age of the Church, when the witness was the martyr. The Christian’s position is easier now, for the world is partly Christianized, and the true Christianity has its admirers even among those who do not possess it. Yet it is not easy to confess Christ in every company and occupation, and to be His witness by what we are, by what Christ has done in us, and by what we do for Christ. The Christian must not lose faith in Christ because success comes slowly, for this was foreseen and foretold by Him. The witness must remember that opposition may be due to one of two causes: (1) Because men “have not known the Father.” This is ignorance of the very meaning of religion, and we cannot be surprised when men who hate all religion hate Christianity most of all. (2) Because men “have not known the Father nor Me,” have not known Christ. We must not be surprised at the opposition of those who are really ignorant of Christianity. Their ignorance may be due to their having met merely nominal Christianity and having noted its inconsistency.

If so, the fault is not so much theirs as ours. We need not think Christianity a mistake because men mistake Christianity. It is the work of the Spirit to make us the kind of people who can recommend our religion in such a way that men acknowledge we have been with Christ and He with us and then seek Him for themselves.

THE HOLY COMMUNION

The name of this Sunday, Dominica expectationis, refers not only to the waiting for the Holy Spirit’s coming. The Epistle begins with the words: “Therefore keep sane and sober for your prayers.” The word “therefore” refers to the preceding statement: “The end of all things is at hand.” The Bridegroom’s departure is closely corrected with His return. The Church looks forward eagerly and expectantly to the marriage feast when she will be united with her Beloved for-ever. The first Christians were greatly disappointed when they learned from the Apostles that their Lord’s return did not lie necessarily in the immediate future. Nevertheless, the faithful built their hopes and future on and around the confi-dent expectation of His imminent return. Down the ages, century after century, the Church has prayed every Sunday: “Come, Lord Jesus.” Disappointed, she has contented herself with the assurance that the Lord is not slow about His promise (2 Peter 3:9). Today our hope is undiminished, our confidence is undiminished. If anything, the Church is more hopeful and confident and eager, remembering the final message of her exalted Bridegroom, “Behold, I come quickly!”

What was it that in all ages kept the Church conscious that she was the Church, the bride of the Son of God, and kept her looking hopefully for the Bridegroom’s return and the consummation of the marriage? Sunday after Sunday the faithful gathered and remembered the Bridegroom. “Take bread and eat, take wine and drink. This do to My memorial.” Faithfully the believers obeyed. Century after century the Church of Jesus Christ built her entire worship on and around this remembrance of her Lord. Sunday after Sunday the Church remembered her Lord in the Upper Room before His death, as He was again truly present with her in the Holy Communion. She saw and heard Him again, heard Him speak of coming again in glory, and looked forward to the hour of His return.

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