There is an especially poignant message for us today as we honor Our Lord in the Feast of His glorious Ascension into Heaven.
“I go to prepare a place for you. And if I shall go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am, you also may be.” (John, 14, 2, 3)
Our reading for today, the Feast of the Ascension of Christ into Heaven is taken from Archbishop Fulton Sheen, in his “Life of Christ”.
His sacrifice being completed, as He was about to ascend to His Heavenly throne, He raised His hands bearing the imprint of nails. That gesture would be one of the last recollections the Apostles would have, save one. The hands were raised first to heaven and then pulled downward to earth as if to draw down its blessings on men. Pierced hands best distribute benediction. In the Book of Leviticus, after the reading of the prophetical promise of the Messias, there came the high priestly benediction; so too, after showing that all prophecies were fulfilled in Him, He prepared to enter the heavenly sanctuary. Hands that held the sceptre of authority in heaven and on earth now gave the final blessing:
“And even as He blessed them He parted from them, and was carried up into heaven…” Luke 24:51 “And is seated now at the right Hand of God.” Mark 16:19 “So they bowed down to worship Him, And went back full of joy to Jerusalem, Where they spent their time continually In the temple, praising and blessing God.” Luke 24:52, 53
Had Christ remained on earth, sight would have taken the place of faith. In heaven, there will be no faith because His followers will see; there will be no hope, because they will possess; but there will be love for love endureth forever! His leave-taking of the earth combined the Cross and the Crown that governed the smallest detail of His life. The Ascension took place on Mount Olivet at the base of which is Bethany. He led His Apostles out through Bethany, which meant passing through Gethsemane and the very spot where He wept over Jerusalem.
Not as from a throne, but from a mountain elevated above the garden with the twisted olive trees crimsoned with His Blood, did He give the final manifestation of His Divine power! His heart was not embittered by His Cross, for the Ascension was the fruit of His Crucifixion. As He said, it was fitting that He suffer in order to enter into His glory. In the Ascension the Savior did not lay aside the garment of flesh with which He had been clothed; for His human nature would be the pattern of the future glory of other human natures, which would become incorporated to Him through a sharing of His life. Intrinsic and deep was the relation between His Incarnation and His Ascension. The Incarnation or the assuming of a human nature made it possible for Him to suffer and redeem. The Ascension exalted into glory that same human nature that was humbled to the death. A Coronation upon the earth, instead of an Ascension into heaven, would have confined men’s thoughts of Him to the earth. But the Ascension would cause men’s minds and hearts to ascend above the earth.
In relation to Himself, it was fitting that the human nature which He took as the instrument for teaching, and governing, and sanctifying, should partake of glory as it shared in shame. It was very hard to believe that He, Who was the Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief, was the beloved Son in Whom the Father was well pleased. It was difficult to believe that He, Who did not come down from a Cross, could ascend into heaven, or that the momentary glory that shone about Him on the Mount of the Transfiguration was a permanent possession. The Ascension put all such doubts away by introducing His human nature into intimate and eternal communion with God.
The human nature which He took was mocked as a Prophet when they blindfolded Him and asked Him to tell who struck Him; He was mocked as a King when they put upon Him a mock-robe of royalty and gave Him a reed of straw for a sceptre; finally He was mocked as a Priest when they challenged Him, Who was offering Himself as a Victim, to come down from the Cross. By the Ascension His triple office of Teacher, King, and Priest was vindicated. But the vindication would be complete when He would come in justice as the Judge of men in the human nature which He took from men. No one to be judged could complain that God knows not the trials to which humans are subject. His very appearance as the Son of Man would prove that He had fought the same battles as men and endured the same temptations as those standing at His bar of justice. His judgment would immediately find an echo in hearts.
Another reason for the Ascension was that He might plead in heaven to His Father with a human nature common to the rest of men. He could now, as it were, show the scars of His glory not only as trophies of victory but also as emblems of intercession. The night He went into the garden He prayed, as if He were already at the right hand of the Father in His heavenly abode; He uttered a prayer that was less that of a dying than that of an exalted Redeemer.
“So that the love Thou hast bestowed upon Me May dwell in them, and I, too, may dwell in them.” John 17:26
While in heaven, He would be not only an Advocate of men with the Father but He would also send the Holy Spirit as man’s Advocate with Him. The Christ at the right hand of the Father would represent humanity before the Father’s throne; the Holy Spirit abiding with the faithful would represent in them the Christ Who went to the Father. In the Ascension, Christ took our necessities to the Father; thanks to the Spirit, Christ the Redeemer would be brought into the hearts of all who would believe in Him. The Ascension would give Christ the right to intercede powerfully for mortals:
“We can claim a great High Priest, and One who has passed right up through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God. It was not as if our High Priest was incapable of feeling for us in our humiliations; He has been through every trial, Fashioned as we are, only sinless.” Hebrews 4:14 .
He has gone before us, to prepare a place for us!
“And I have made known Thy name to them, and will make it known; that the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me, may be in them, and I in them.”
May Our Lord Jesus Christ bless you, stregthen you and sustain you always, dear readers, and may Our Lady keep you close to her Immaculate Heart always and bring you safely to eternal joy when all our trials are over.
If you are missing our usual post for the Ascension, please click here.
Tomorrow, our post will be our accustomed Novena to the Holy Ghost in preparation for Pentecost.
† Immaculate Heart of Mary, Queen of our hearts, Mother of the Church, do thou offer to the Eternal Father the Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, for the conversion of poor sinners, especially our Pontiff.
† Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Thy Kingdom come, Viva Cristo Rey!
† St. Joseph, guardian of the Holy Family, protect our families, protect our priests!
† St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.
† St. Francisco of Fatima, pray for us! pray for the Church!
† St. Jacinta of Fatima, pray for us! pray for the Pope!
~ by evensong for love of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ, King.
Vouchsafe that I may praise thee, O Sacred Virgin! Give me strength against thine enemies!