Saturday, May 19, 2012

Ascendit Deus!

Icon of the Ascension
Readings for the Solemnity of the Ascension:
Acts 1:1-11
Psalm 47:2-3, 6-9
Ephesians 4:1-13 (or 1:17-23)
Mark 16:15-20

At the surface level, it can seem a bit odd for us to celebrate the day when the Lord Jesus left Earth to ascend to Heaven. I have to admit that in some sense, I'd really like Jesus to have an office building where we could set up appointments and he could tell us exactly what to do and solve our problems. But the reality is that as much as I’d like to have Jesus here with us to speak face to face, it is truly for our own good that He Ascended into Heaven. St. Paul reminds us that ‘he ascended’ points to the reality that Christ first descended to be with us and that He is now returning to Heaven “that he might fill all things.”

Christ ascended because He knows that our true fulfillment is found only in Heaven. As wonderful as this life is, we weren’t made to remain here. So, the Lord ascends into Heaven to prepare a place for us and awaits our arrival, for as the Collect, or opening prayer, today said: where the head has gone before in glory, the body is called to follow in hope.

But He does not simply sit at the right hand of the Father twiddling His thumbs waiting for each soul to arrive at the heavenly gates. He is actively interceding for us and pouring out His grace through the hands of the Blessed Mother upon the whole world. In one of the Easter prefaces before the Eucharistic Prayer we hear that Christ is “the priest, the altar and the lamb of sacrifice.” As a priest, He offered Himself as a lamb in the altar of His flesh. All of this was so that we might be redeemed and be able to join Him in the Heavenly Banquet for which we were created. And so He continues to stand at the right hand of God the Father – symbolically a place of honor – and continues to offer Himself as priest, altar and lamb to the Father as payment for our sins. This is the grace of the Ascension – that Christ stands before the Father reminding the Father of the extent of His love for us on Earth and pouring out grace for us to continue the journey toward Heaven.

Truly God is with us, much more than simply in the flesh. For He is alive in our hearts in and through the Holy Spirit, drawing us day by day to that ultimate union where we will behold the glorious face of God for all eternity.

And a little lagniappe....