Dear Family in Christ,
The Ascension of the Lord, one of the great mysteries of our faith, is probably the most difficult to grasp and fully appreciate. At the heart of every Mass, just after the Consecration and the Memorial Acclamation, we here these(or similar) words:
“Therefore, O Lord, as we celebrate the memorial of the saving Passion of your Son, His wondrous Resurrection and Ascension into heaven, and as we look forward to His second coming, we offer you in thanksgiving this holy and living sacrifice.”(Eucharistic Prayer III, Roman Missal)
What strikes me about this every time I pray it is that the Ascension is listed alongside Jesus’ Passion and His Resurrection. I’m struck by it because I think I have a decent grasp of Jesus’ Passion, and how it affects us; He suffered and died for us, taking our sins upon Himself and offering Himself as the perfect atoning sacrifice. I also think I have a good appreciation of His Resurrection; Jesus, having taken on our humanity, suffers a death like ours but triumphs over death once and for all, giving us all the hope of eternal life.
But what about the Ascension? What does the fact that Jesus ‘ascended into Heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty’(Apostles Creed, Article 6) do for me? The Ascension is the completion of what began at the Incarnation- the Eternal Son of God descended from the Father, took on human nature from the Blessed Virgin, Mary, accomplished the work of our Redemption by His Passion, Death, and Resurrection. He now ascends back to the same Father from whom He came, but in a different way. He does so not only as God, but also as man- as one of us! Our human nature enters eternity, Heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father- not to relax, or simply to observe, but to intercede for us and to continue to offer Himself as the Sacrifice for us.
When Jesus ascends and enters into eternity, He makes it possible for every priest to offer that same Sacrifice at every Mass all over the world until He comes again. Heaven and earth are able to touch at every Mass because of the Ascension. At every Eucharist, we participate and witness this reality. In the Eucharist, Jesus fulfils His promise to be with us always, to the end of the age. This must be why He told His disciples, “It is to your advantage that I go”.(John 16:7)
Did I do the Ascension justice in this column? Not even close. Still, I pray that this Sunday, our celebration of the Easter season continues to deepen by the wonder of what God has done and continues to do, for us through His Son.
God Love You,