By Fr. Bede McGregor O.P.
Spiritual Director to the Legion of Mary
The Feast of the Ascension and the Legion
Christ and His Mysteries are a major characteristic of Legion spirituality. This is clear from the role that the Rosary plays in the life of the Legion. The Legion never ceases to contemplate the mysteries of the life of Our Lord and the work of our redemption in the Rosary. The Rosary helps the Legionary to cling to Christ in company with Mary and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It is one of Mary's ways of keeping the Legion always centred on Christ in all his grace giving mysteries. The meaning and power of the Rosary cannot be known too well because on its mysteries our salvation depends.
Even more profoundly the Legion strives to put Christ and His mysteries at the centre of its life by exhorting its members to immerse themselves in the liturgical seasons and feasts especially through daily Mass and Holy Communion if at all possible. In the Liturgy we actively engage with the real presence of Jesus and open ourselves to the special graces offered us in each of His Mysteries. It is in the Liturgy in a special way that Christ lives in us and us in Him. We celebrate in all actuality as members of Christ's Body in the life and work of Christ our Head. Every moment of Christ's life is infinitely precious and in the Liturgy we share in them all.
Another striking indication of the importance of all the mysteries of the life of Christ in the Legion is the fact that Frank Duff our founder has written on nearly all these mysteries of the Lord and directly or indirectly he has integrated them into the Handbook.
Today our Concilium meeting takes place on the Feast of the Ascension and I would like to explore however briefly with you what this great mystery in the life of our Lord should mean to the Legion. I refer you to an article of Frank Duff in his book The Woman of Genesis for a fuller treatment. The article is called: The Ascension Commandment.
Our Lord's last words before he ascended into heaven were: 'Behold I am with you always to the close of the age.' These are tremendous words for every Christian but especially every legionary. Jesus withdraws his visible presence but is present to us and in us invisibly but really and most intimately. Here we have the doctrine of the mystical Body of Christ, a doctrine so loved and pivotal for the Legion. The Lord is the Vine and we the branches; He is the Head and we are the Body. The richness of this doctrine expressed one more time and so simply by Our Lord pervades almost every page of the Handbook.
Secondly, the Ascension is the immediate prelude to the sending of the Holy Spirit among us. The Apostles were to wait for the Holy Spirit, who was the gift of the Father and the Son to the Church and each one of us. As Pope John Paul II says: 'From the beginning it had to be crystal clear that the source of the Apostles' strength is the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who guides the Church in the way of truth; the Gospel is to spread through the power of God, and not by means of human wisdom or strength.' What the Holy Spirit was to the early Church so He is to the Legion. The Holy Spirit is absolutely primary to the Legion. This truth is taught to us by Mary. She was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit and allowed Him to do whatever He willed through her and in her. Her relationship to the Holy Spirit was absolutely special and so He must be to us. That is why the mystery of the Ascension is such an important time for the Legion. We join with the whole Church in waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
Thirdly, in the mystery of the Ascension we have the clearest statement of the Mission of the Church, the task entrusted to each one of us by the Lord Himself. 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and behold I am with you always, to the close of the age.' Frank Duff called this the last will and testament of the Risen Lord, the great commission entrusted to the Church. One cannot understand the Legion or its founder apart from this imperative task of the evangelisation of the whole world. Frank Duff listened to these words with all his mind, heart and soul. Commitment to the apostolate is ultimately the measure of the extent to which one is a legionary and the yardstick of how the Legion understands and follows the charism of its founder. There are other ways of measuring the state of the Legion but commitment especially to the lay apostolate in response to the request of Our Lord must be one of them. It is meditation on the mystery of the Ascension that brings to mind all these graces and ideals of Legion spirituality that we have just touched upon.
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