Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal

Ascension of Jesus Christ

Volume 5 No. 285 May 13, 2015

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It is the Spring time in North America and the beginning of the church Perunnals. A curious Nataliya tries on the 'chenda' (Kerala folk drum) at the Feast Day in St. Ephreim's Knanaya Church, Detroit, MI.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
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1. Foreword

The Feast of the Ascension is one of the most significant days in the Church's Liturgical Calendar. It celebrates Christ's return to the Father (John 16:28) forty days after his resurrection. It is narrated in Acts 1:1-11, Luke 24:50 - end and Mark 16:19. ...

Ascension Thursday in Church

2. Bible Readings for Ascension (May 14)

Bible Readings For The Ascension of our Lord
http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Lectionary/Lec_ascension-Thursday.htm

3. Sermons for Ascension (May 14)

Sermons For The Ascension of our Lord
http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Sermons/Sermon-of-the-week_Ascension.htm

4. From Malankara World Journal Archives

Malankara World Journals with the Theme: Ascension of Jesus Christ

Volume 4 No 221: May 29, 2014
http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Newsletter/MWJ_221.htm

Volume 3 No 141: May 8 2013
http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Newsletter/MWJ_141.htm

Volume 2 No 76: May 15 2012
http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Newsletter/MWNews_76.htm

Volume 1 No 7: June 1, 2011
http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Newsletter/MWNews_7-June-1-2011.htm

5. The Ascension of the Lord

Assuming that we go to heaven, our bodies will be with our souls for all eternity, so that just as the body of Jesus Christ was taken to heaven, and that sacrifice which He offered in His own flesh is now offered to God before the throne, so too our bodies, our flesh, our humanity (for which that sacrifice was offered) will also be taken up to share in the glory of God. That is what this day is all about. That is the importance of the Ascension. Not only has Jesus already taken our humanity to heaven, not only is He there offering that sacrifice once for all time so that we would have the opportunity to share in the glory of God; but He will come back in His glorified humanity to take those who will rise from the dead on the day of judgment...

6. Brand-new Day for the World

This day was different. The disciples' encounters with the risen Lord, their heightened awareness of their great mission to bring the good news to every corner of the earth, and their anticipation of the coming of the Holy Spirit resulted in fervent worship and great joy. May each celebration of the Ascension in every church around the world this week be marked by deep joy and reverent homage of Jesus Christ. ...

7. Ascension - A Celebration of The Glory of Humanity

Jesus takes our human nature - yours and mine - to the heart of God and he speaks to God, his father, in a human voice. In heaven, the language they speak is human (not just angelic). Our words (human words) are heard at the very centre of the burning heart of reality. ...

8. The Bridegroom is the Lord

With the Ascension, the Son of God brought to the Father our humanity that he took on and he wants to draw all men to himself, to call the whole world to be welcomed into the open arms of God, so that, at the end of history, all of reality will be handed over to the Father.  ...

9. About Malankara World

Foreword
The Feast of the Ascension is one of the most significant days in the Church's Liturgical Calendar. It celebrates Christ's return to the Father (John 16:28) forty days after his resurrection. It is narrated in Acts 1:1-11, Luke 24:50 - end and Mark 16:19.

Questions About the Ascension

When did Christ ascend into heaven?

Christ ascended, body and soul, into heaven on Ascension Day, forty days after His Resurrection.

Why did Christ remain on earth forty days after His Resurrection?

Christ remained on earth forty days after His Resurrection to prove that He had truly risen from the dead and to complete the instruction of the apostles.

(a) Saint Paul tells us that Christ, after His Resurrection, appeared frequently to the apostles and to many others.

(b) Christ ascended into heaven from Mount Olivet, a hill outside Jerusalem.

What do we mean when we say that Christ sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty?

When we say that Christ sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty, we mean that Our Lord, as God, is equal to the Father, and that, as man, He shares above all the saints in the glory of His Father and exercises for all eternity the supreme authority of a king over all creatures.

(a) Even as man, Christ of Himself has dominion over all creation. His Kingship rests on the fact that His human nature is immediately united to the divine Person of the Son of God, and on the fact that He redeemed all men with His precious blood.

(b) On earth Christ exercises His kingly authority in spiritual matters through His Church. His Kingship extends also over temporal and civil matters.

Source: CCC

Ascension Thursday in Church
Bible Readings for Ascension (May 14)
Sermons for Ascension (May 14)

From Malankara World Journal Archives

The Ascension of the Lord

by Fr. Altier

Gospel: St. Luke 24:46-53
Scriptures: Acts 1:1-11, Heb 9:24-28; 10:19-23

Today we celebrate the Feast of Our Lord's Ascension into heaven. By Ascension we mean that He, by His own power, was taken body and soul into heaven. This is different from St. Mary's Assumption. To ascend means to go up by one's own power, to be assumed means to be taken up by someone else's power. St. Mary was lifted up by God; but Jesus, being God, took Himself by His own power up to heaven. And He took our humanity with Him so that united to the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity our human nature is already present in heaven in Jesus Christ.

Now beyond this St. Paul tells us in Heb 9:24-28; 10:19-23 that Jesus then has passed into the sanctuary. He is our high priest and He has offered a sacrifice, as he points out, not like the high priest of old who used to enter the Holy of Holies that was made by hands. The Holy of Holies in Jerusalem was a copy of the temple that Moses had seen in the vision of heaven. What God, up on top of Mt. Sinai, showed to Moses was that vision of the worship of heaven. He then told Moses now you make a sanctuary that is going to be modeled on what you saw. And so the high priest entered into the Holy of Holies once a year with the blood of the bull and the goat so he could sprinkle that blood upon the altar for the forgiveness of sin. But St. Paul tells us that Jesus has passed through the veil (the veil of his flesh), and entered into the Holy of Holies that is not a copy of the real one, but has entered into the true Holy of Holies, the one in heaven itself.

Now about the veil that St. Paul is mentioning, remember that passage in St. John's Gospel that tells us that at the moment of the death of our Lord, the veil or the curtain in the temple was torn in two. There was a huge veil, a huge curtain that hung in the doorway between the Holy of Holies and the rest of the temple. It is as if there was a huge veil right across here at the front of the sanctuary that separated the sanctuary area from the rest of the church. That is the way that it was so that the people could not see into the Holy of Holies. That curtain, or veil, separated the people from the place of the Lord. Now St. Paul tells us, unlike the high priest that had to go around that veil and into the Holy of Holies, Jesus has entered the Holy of Holies through the veil which is His own flesh, the veil of death, the veil which keeps us from God, that is the life in the body.

Now our Lord, even with His body, has entered into the glory of heaven; and He has gone not with the blood of bulls and goats but with His own blood. He has entered therefore once for all time. This is what is so important to be able to understand; that in His Ascension our Lord has taken His sacrifice up to heaven. It is just as we pray at the Mass, "Lord may your angel take this sacrifice to Your altar in heaven," so that the sacrifice of Jesus is before the throne of our heavenly Father. In having taken our humanity and His sacrifice into heaven there is no more sacrifice for sin. That is why at Mass we do not sacrifice Jesus again, but it is one continual sacrifice. Once for all, St. Paul says, once for all time.

Many Christian people misunderstand that and they say Jesus offered Himself once on the Cross, therefore it is done. Everything is finished, there is no more sacrifice for sin, no more sacrifice period, it is all finished. Jesus died for my sins therefore I am going to heaven. That is not what it meant. St. Paul means it is once for all time. That sacrifice continues to be offered, as it will right here on the altar in just a few moments, and for all time there is one sacrifice as God promised through the prophet Malachi.

Why are we talking about this on the Feast of the Ascension? In this we see several things in the readings. First of all St. Luke tells us in the Acts of the Apostles. He is writing to a person he calls Theophilus, which is you and me (Theophilus is from two Greek words which mean the lover of God.) For anyone who loves God, St. Luke is writing, this is the truth of what happened. He reminds us that Jesus for forty days after He suffered, showed Himself to His Apostles and proved to them in many ways that He was alive. He sets the context. He talks about the life, the suffering, the death, the resurrection, the forty days and then was taken up to heaven in their sight. So we see the whole context the life, the death, the resurrection of our Lord, and now also the Ascension.

The Ascension is so important because without it the work of redemption would not be fulfilled. Think about what it would mean if Jesus did not ascend into heaven. It would mean that we could all rise from the dead and then we would be stuck here on earth for the rest of eternity. God did not make us for that purpose. He made us so that we can be with Him. And the only way we were going to be able to be with Him is if the way to heaven was open, if whatever separated us from God was removed. So just as at the death of Jesus the curtain was torn in two, now we see that through the flesh Jesus has entered into that Holy of Holies. There is nothing any longer which separates us from God except for our natural life in this world. Now at the moment of death when we enter through that veil, we too have the opportunity to be able to go heaven to be united with our Lord, and to be able to enter face to face into that glory of God.

The reason I was talking about that sacrifice of Jesus is that it is not just a matter of sitting around gazing lovingly at God. That would be enough; that would be more than enough. It would be more than we would be able to handle for the rest of all eternity, because God is infinite. To be able to look at Him for the rest of eternity implies that we will never ever, ever reach the end of God. There will always be more and as we look at God (there are not instances in eternity but if there were) at every single instance of eternity we would see more. We would see a new vision of God, and we would be filled with the glory of God. But God is not content merely with that. He has invited us into the very worship of Himself. That is why we have to understand the importance of what Jesus has done by taking His sacrifice up to heaven, by bringing Himself and His flesh in our human nature before the throne of God to offer Himself once for all time to our heavenly Father. Right now He is standing before the throne of almighty God, and He is showing to God the Father the wounds that He incurred for us. As we offer this sacrifice on the altar in just a few moments, and that sacrifice is taken up to heaven, Jesus is right there showing the heavenly Father the sacrifice that He offered physically as we offer that sacrifice mystically and united with Him. So the importance of this is that we now already share in the heavenly worship.

What we are doing right here is similar to what happened in the Old Testament. Moses had the vision of the heavenly worship and made a temple that looked like the temple in heaven, and was able to enter into the worship of God and offer the blood of bulls and goats. We offer the blood of the innocent Lamb in the true tabernacle. So even though here we already share in that heavenly worship it is still in a temple, which is a mere copy made by human hands, but we offer a sacrifice that is not merely human but it is divine. We offer the very sacrifice of heaven and we receive the very bread of angels, the bread come down from heaven. We receive Jesus, and that is the dignity that will be ours for all eternity. Jesus has already taken Himself and His sacrifice and His humanity; His body, His Blood, His Soul, and His Divinity, He has taken up to heaven and He has offered that to our heavenly Father. The heavenly Father has accepted the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf. But even still it is not complete.

Notice again the context in the readings twice, in St. Paul's letter to the Hebrews as well as in the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 1:1-11), we hear that, "This Jesus whom you saw go up to heaven will return just as you saw Him go." It is not enough that when we die that our souls would be able to go to heaven. God made us both body and soul, and so right now the saints who are in heaven already gazing on God, do not yet enjoy the fullness of what they will have because our bodies, like the body of Jesus will be reunited with our souls.

Assuming that we go to heaven, our bodies will be with our souls for all eternity, so that just as the body of Jesus Christ was taken to heaven, and that sacrifice which He offered in His own flesh is now offered to God before the throne, so too our bodies, our flesh, our humanity (for which that sacrifice was offered) will also be taken up to share in the glory of God. That is what this day is all about. That is the importance of the Ascension. Not only has Jesus already taken our humanity to heaven, not only is He there offering that sacrifice once for all time so that we would have the opportunity to share in the glory of God; but He will come back in His glorified humanity to take those who will rise from the dead on the day of judgment, on the day of resurrection, on the last day of this world, He will take us with Him so that we will enter into the glory, into the fullness of glory of God in body and soul. Not only will we look upon the face of God; we will actually enter into the very worship of God, and be able to understand in the fullness of our being what it is that we already participate in here. We will enter into the heavenly banquet, the marriage banquet of the Lamb, where we will feast upon Jesus Christ for all eternity.

Where we enter into God, God enters into us (as we talked about last week) and we will understand even as we have been understood; we will see even as we are seen. And we will be able to participate fully in the worship that we already share in here, where the sacrifice of Jesus Christ will be ours for all eternity. We will be able to unite ourselves with Him and offer glory to God and worship Him for all eternity. So today and every day as we come for Mass and we worship God, we need to gaze lovingly upon our Lord present in the Blessed Sacrament. At the same time we need to look forward to the fullness of that, but recognize the dignity that is ours. Even now we share in the worship of God, but now only in a temple and in the Holy of Holies that is a copy of the true one. As we look forward to the fullness of the promise that we already share in this Mass and in the Holy Sacrament of the Mass, we look forward to the glory of God and the fullness of worship. That is when we too will enter through the veil into the very sanctuary of God, and with the angels, and the saints, and with Jesus Himself, we will worship our heavenly Father through all eternity.

Brand-new Day for the World

by Fr. Jack Peterson, YA

This week, we gratefully remember the Ascension, that day when Jesus' disciples watched as He ascended into heaven 40 days after He rose from the dead on Easter Sunday. The disciples stood and watched as Our Lord "parted from them and was taken up to heaven." A detail worth highlighting here is the contrast with the Resurrection of Christ, which none of the disciples witnessed. They witnessed the resurrected Jesus, but not the Resurrection itself. The Father desired, on the other hand, that the Ascension be witnessed by Jesus' followers. Perhaps watching Our Lord be lifted up and transported on a cloud out of their sight sealed the disciples' commitment to being Jesus' hands, heart and feet in the world.

Both our reading from Acts of the Apostles (Acts 1:1-11) and our Gospel from Luke recount this event for us. This is not surprising since they both were authored by Luke the Evangelist. One common feature of these two accounts is that they make reference to the imminent coming of the Holy Spirit. The mystery of Jesus' Ascension is intimately tied with the mystery of the coming of the Advocate. Furthermore, both readings reference the "power" that will come to the disciples as a result of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. "And behold I am sending the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high" (Lk 24: 49).

This power flowing from the Advocate will transform their hearts and lives, make them brand-new creatures and enable them to imitate Christ in the most remarkable ways. In fact, Jesus will boldly state: "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father" (Jn 14:12).

Returning to the Ascension, St. Luke highlights another reality that marked that beautiful day. The disciples respond to Jesus' departure by offering Our Lord homage and returning "to Jerusalem with great joy." This response to Jesus' departure is in stark contrast to their response the last time Jesus left them. On Good Friday, the disciples responded with crushing doubt, fear and sadness.

This day was different. The disciples' encounters with the risen Lord, their heightened awareness of their great mission to bring the good news to every corner of the earth, and their anticipation of the coming of the Holy Spirit resulted in fervent worship and great joy. May each celebration of the Ascension in every church around the world this week be marked by deep joy and reverent homage of Jesus Christ.

Finally, on this marvelous day of the Ascension, the risen Jesus ascends into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. Humanity enters heaven this day. Heaven becomes our true home. Jesus carves a path to His eternal home for every one of His adopted brothers and sisters, redeemed by His precious blood. This great truth must not be overlooked.

The Ascension of Jesus is a cause of the greatest hope. We are invited and the way is paved for believers to be drawn into the very life and love of God for all eternity. We have been given the unfathomable privilege of sitting near Jesus at the right hand of the Father, gazing upon the very face of God forever and ever. We have been offered the chance to participate in the intimate, filial relationship that Jesus has with the Father, sharing in their love and unity. Again, this truth of reality must be celebrated with profound joy. It is a brand-new day for the whole world.

In the words of Psalm 47, "All you peoples, clap your hands, shout to God with cries of gladness, for the Lord, the Most High, the awesome, is the great king over all the earth."

About The Author:

Fr. Peterson is assistant chaplain at Marymount University in Arlington and director of the Youth Apostles Institute in McLean.

Source: Arlington Catholic Herald

Ascension - A Celebration of The Glory of Humanity

by The Archbishop of Canterbury

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

One popular hymn for the Feast of the Ascension contains these lines:

Thou hast raised our human nature
in the clouds at God's right hand.

The ascension of Jesus in this context becomes a celebration of the extraordinary fact that our humanity, in all its variety, in all its vulnerability, has been taken by Jesus into the heart of the divine life. 'Man with God is on the throne,' that hymn goes on. Quite a shocking line if you start thinking about it.

And that, of course, is first of all good news about humanity itself - the humanity that we all know to be stained, wounded, imprisoned in various ways; this humanity - yours and mine - is still capable of being embraced by God, shot through with God's glory, received and welcomed in the burning heart of reality itself:

to the throne of Godhead,
to the Father's breast.

as another hymn puts it.

But let's pursue that theme just a little bit further. Jesus takes our human nature - yours and mine - to the heart of God and he speaks to God, his father, in a human voice. In heaven, the language they speak is human (not just angelic). Our words (human words) are heard at the very centre of the burning heart of reality.

St Augustine many centuries ago reflected on this in his many sermons on the psalms. Like most of us, St Augustine was rather worried by the fact that the psalms are not always fit for polite company. They are full of rude, angry, violent, hateful remarks; they contain protests against God, and spectacular ill-wishing against human beings. The psalms, you might say, are as human as it gets. So why do we recite them in public worship? aren't they just a reminder of those aspects of our humanity that are best left out of God's sight?

Augustine's point was this: apart from the fact that it is no use trying to leave bits of our humanity out of God's sight, God has actually taken an initiative in making our language his own. And therefore you have to imagine as you say or hear the psalms that Jesus is speaking them.

And there's another shocking thought -

Jesus saying, 'where are you, God?'
Jesus saying, 'my God why have you forsaken me?' (But then of course he did.)
Jesus saying, 'Destroy my enemies', and 'Blessed are those who dash their children against the stones' ...

goodness knows what. Well, says the saint, it doesn't mean that Jesus is telling us that any and every human cry is good. It doesn't mean that Jesus endorses ideas about revenge on your enemies, or even shaking your fist at God the Father. But it does mean that Jesus treats us, our feelings, our tumultuous personalities, as real. He takes us seriously. He takes us seriously when we're moving towards God and each other in love; and, amazingly, he takes us seriously when we're moving in the opposite direction - when we are spinning downwards into destructive, hateful fantasies. He doesn't let go of us and he doesn't lose sight of us when we seek to lock ourselves up in the dark.

Jesus hears all the words we speak - words of pain and protest and rage and violence. He hears them and he takes them and in the presence of the God the Father he says, 'This is the humanity I have brought home. It's not a pretty sight; it's not edifying and impressive and heroic, it's just real: real and needy and confused, and here it is (this complicated humanity) brought home to heaven, dropped into the burning heart of God - for healing and for transformation. That's quite a lot to bear in mind when you're saying or hearing the Psalms. But it's probably the only way of coping with rather a lot of them.

But all of that in the saint's thinking arises from this basic insight: Jesus ascends to heaven. The human life in which God has made himself most visible, most tangible, disappears from the human world in its former shape and is somehow absorbed into the endless life of God. And our humanity, all of it, goes with Jesus. When St Paul speaks of Christ 'filling all in all', as we heard in the epistle (Ephesians 1.15 - end), we must bear in mind that picture: Jesus' humanity taking into it all the difficult, resistant, unpleasant bits of our humanity, taking them into the heart of love where alone they can be healed and transfigured.

And when in the other readings, from Acts (1.1 - 11) and the Gospel (Luke 24.44 - end) Jesus speaks of the promise of the Father that is going to descend on the world, he's speaking of the way in which the gift of the Holy Spirit of God enables us not only to be a new kind of being but to see human beings afresh and to hear them differently. When the Holy Spirit sweeps over us in the wind and the flame of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit gives us the life of Jesus. It gives us something of Jesus' capacity to hear what is really being said by human beings. It gives us the courage, not to screen out those bits of the human world that are difficult, unpleasant, not edifying. It opens our eyes and our ears and our hearts to the full range of what being human means. So that, instead of being somebody who needs to be sheltered from the rough truth of the world, the Christian is someone who should be more open and more vulnerable to that great range of human experience.

The Christian is not in a position to censor out any bits of the human voice, that troubling symphony which so often draws in pain and anger and violence. And to recognize that we're open to that and we hear it is not to say that we shrug our shoulders and say, 'Well that's just human nature' (one of the most unhelpful phrases in the moral vocabulary). On the contrary, we feel the edge, the ache in human anger and human suffering. And we recognise that it can be taken into Christ, and into the heart of the Father, it can be healed. It can be transfigured.

Jesus has gone before us into the darkest places of human reality. He has picked up the sounds that he hears. And think of what those sounds are: the quiet cries of the abused child; the despairing tears of a Sri Lankan in these last few days, surrounded and threatened by two different kinds of mindless violence. He picks up the cry of the hungry and the forgotten. He hears the human beings that nobody else hears. And he calls to us to say, 'You listen too'. He makes his own the cynical dismissal of faith by the sophisticated, and sees through it to the underlying need. He makes his own the joy and celebration and thanksgiving of human beings going about their routine work and finding their fulfilment in ordinary prosaic, bog-standard love and faithfulness. All of that is taken 'to the throne of Godhead, / to the Father's breast'. All of that on the throne of eternity in the burning heart of truth and reality.

So yes, indeed, the Ascension is a celebration of the glory of humanity, the unlikely possibilities of people like you and me, the eternal potential locked up in our muddled struggling lives. And a celebration too of God's capacity, through his Holy Spirit, to reach into those parts of humanity that are so far from glorious, that are rebellious and troubled and broken, to breathe through them, to take them home, to drop them into that fire and melt them and recast them.

The promise of the Father is that we as Christians will receive that level and dimension of divine life that we call 'Holy Spirit', so that, like Jesus, we will find that nothing human is alien to us. And the promise of the Father is that by the love of Christ spreading through us and in us, the world may be brought home to Christ, who brings it home to his Father.

We who are his body, 'the fullness of him who fills all in all', have to hear with his ears and see with his eyes. In the midst of a humanity flailing and struggling, failing and suffering, we see and we hear what God can do. We remember that Christ has 'raised our human nature / in the clouds at God's right hand', and our compassion is deepened a hundred-fold, our awareness of pain is deepened a hundred-fold, and (please God) by the gift of the Spirit, our hope is deepened a thousand-fold.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Source: Transcript of a sermon by the Archbishop of Canterbury at the Ascension Day Sung Eucharist on Thursday 21st May 2009

Rowan Williams 2009

The Bridegroom is the Lord

By Father Mark

Into the Open Arms of God

With the Ascension, the Son of God brought to the Father our humanity that he took on and he wants to draw all men to himself, to call the whole world to be welcomed into the open arms of God, so that, at the end of history, all of reality will be handed over to the Father.

I Do Not Know You

There is, though, this "intermediate time" between the first coming of Christ and the last, which is precisely the time that we are living. The parable of the ten virgins is placed within this context (cf. Mt 25:1-13). It involves ten girls who are waiting for the arrival of the bridegroom, but he delays and they fall asleep. At the sudden announcement that the bridegroom is coming, all prepare to welcome him, but while five of them, who were wise, have oil to trim their lamps, the others, who are foolish, are left with unlit lamps because they have no oil; and while they go out to find some, the bridegroom arrives and the foolish virgins find the door closed that leads to the bridal feast. They knock persistently, but it is too late, the bridegroom replies: I do not know you.

The Encounter with Jesus

The bridegroom is the Lord, and the waiting time of arrival is the time He gives us, all of us with mercy and patience, before his final coming, it is a time to be vigilant; a time in which we need to keep lit the lamps of the faith, hope and charity, a time in which to keep the heart open to the good, to beauty and to the truth; a time to live according to God, because we know neither the day nor the hour of Christ's return. What is asked of us is to be prepared for this encounter - prepared for an encounter, for a beautiful encounter, the encounter with Jesus - which means being able to see the signs of his presence, to keep alive our faith through prayer, with the sacraments, to be vigilant in order not to sleep, not to forget God. The Christian life asleep is a sad life, it isn't a happy life. The Christian must be happy, have the joy of Jesus. Let's not fall asleep!

Source: Vultus Christi

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