On the Day of His Ascension

Ascension of Christ by Pietro Perugino

Today is the Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ into Heaven. Having died and risen from the dead, Resurrected in glory, He now ascends, forty days later, to His rightful place in the Heavenly Kingdom.

When Roger and I were confirmed into the Catholic church, in Easter 2000 in Switzerland, Ascension Thursday was a Holy Day of Obligation.

Sadly, in Ireland and many parts of the Anglosphere, the Feast of the Ascension has been moved from its rightful place, forty days after Easter, where we celebrate Our Lord’s Resurrection from the dead, to the following Sunday, this coming Sunday, forty-three days later!

This seems yet another manoever to accommodate the Ecclesiastical Year to the commercial rhythms which dictate the modern world. Thankfully, the calendar of the Extraordinary Form holds, of course, to Tradition and traditionalists who are fortunate to be able to celebrate today, will.

In the forty days between the Resurrection and His glorious Ascension into Heaven, Jesus Christ still walked the earth. Yet, His presence on earth was of an altered nature. It is almost as if he lived these days in an inbetween state: inbetween earth and His rightful place, in Heaven.

When He first appeared to Mary Magdalene, after His Resurrection, she failed to recognise Him. But as He uttered her name, she immediately knew Him. He was both unrecognisable and recognisable: one and the same, hidden and visible.

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It is in this way that He is also not recognised by the disciples on the road to Emmaus. He is different.

As Mary Magdalene reached out to her Lord and Master, He said;

Do not touch me, for I am not yet ascended to my Father. But go to my brethren, and say to them: I ascend to my Father and to your Father, to my God and to your God’ (St. John 20: 17).

Jesus’ Body is the same Body that was Incarnate and then Baptised. Although now It is Resurrected: It is glorified.

Whilst He appears the same, He is different. This difference is similar to the way in which His Body is veiled beneath the species of bread and wine in the Eucharist.

His glorified body is hidden beneath His humanity. For Our Lord has ‘not yet ascended’ to His Father, taking His rightful place.

In order for our Lord to Redeem us, we too must be glorified. This will only occur once He has Ascended into Heaven and made a place for us.

Therefore, the Ascension of Our Lord into Heaven marks the accomplishment of the Redemption, which began with His cruel death. Of this, He spoke these words to His disciples;

And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to myself (St. John 12:32).

These words allude to the manner of Jesus’ death, being lifted up on the Cross. And there, lifted up, He does indeed draw all things to Himself, through atoning for our sins.

There on the Cross, He suffers for us all. There on the Cross, He forgives all who have sinned– we, the entire body of humanity. And He draws us to Himself through His love, which pours out from His Most Sacred and generous Heart. This act of outpouring envelops the whole world, drawing us to Him.

Yet, beyond His immolation on the Cross, there is a further meaning to these words. For they also point to His drawing us to Himself in His Heavenly Kingdom, to which He will Ascend, forty days after His Resurrection.

He explains this alternate meaning, with these words to His disciples:

In my Father’s house… I go to prepare a place for you … I will come again, and will take you to myself; that where I am, you also may be. (St. John 14: 2-3).

At the moment of Jesus’ Resurrection from the dead, He is glorified in Body: His humanity is glorified. For He, as Divine Person, has no need of glorification.

Then, when He Ascends into Heaven, and takes His true place at the right hand of the Father, His glorified Body becomes exalted.

There, from His rightful seat, He reigns in glory.

And His reign is not only as King, but High Priest.

Whilst His ministry is completed upon earth, it is far from finished. As High Priest in Heaven, He is the eternal Mediator.

When the Son of God is Resurrected, it is not simply His humanity that becomes glorified, but everything He undertook as a human person – His entire ministry – each and every word or act.

With His earthly mission complete, the Redemptive process continues from Heaven. Through His Ascension, He enables us, in our feeble and human bodies to follow Him to His Father’s house – to also become glorified.

All that He is (Divine and Human), all that He has done (His earthly ministry, His suffering and death), and all that He has become (glorified and exalted), provides us with the way to the Heavenly Kingdom. Only through Him can we reach the Heavenly Kingdom.

For He said:

I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No man cometh to the Father, but by me (St. John 14: 6).

Having Ascended into Heaven and taken up His rightful place, He is King, High Priest and Mediator. He is Head of the Church, His Church. And we, the members of His Church, are His Body, the Mystical Body of Christ.

It is in this way that He, the High Priest, mediates for us, unceasingly. At each and every moment, through His Church, He is drawing us closer and closer to Him, in the Heavenly Kingdom. There, we will reside with Him in eternity, for ‘His Kingdom will have no end’.

It is only when ruling from His rightful place, at the right hand of the Father that the Holy Ghost pours forth, breathing His Divine love into Holy Mother Church.

Just as the Holy Ghost was sent by the Father at the moment of Incarnation, He is now sent in a similar way, to enable the manifestation of the Crucified, Resurrected and Ascended Son, within the Holy Eucharist. Through the unbloody sacrifice on the altar, His glorified Self appears fully, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.

Yet, It cannot be seen – It is veiled beneath the species of bread and wine, just as His Resurrected Body was hidden beneath His humanity.

No more is Jesus Christ’s work ministered on earth. Now He is Ascended in glory, those events, which occurred in time and space, are also glorified, rendering them eternal.

As glorified humanity, exalted in Heaven, our Lord has become the eternal victim. The inauguration of the Last Supper, the First Mass, has become the eternal banquet, where His Sacrifice and Resurrection occur for all time. The High Priest, seated at the right hand of the Father, offers Himself, the Sacrificial Lamb, to be immolated upon the altar, each and every time Holy Mass is celebrated.

Through this greatest mystery of the Church, we are Redeemed. We are brought closer and closer to our Heavenly home, where we too will one day be glorified.

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