The Ascension of the Lord Is Also Our Ascension With the Lord
Ascension is the key that helps unlock the very meaning of our lives and the plan of God for the entire created order?
Does the Ascension affect our lives in the here and now? Is it a commemoration of an event which occurred 2000 years ago? Or, could it be the key that helps unlock the very meaning of our lives and the plan of God for the entire created order? He is the Head and we are members of His Body. We cannot be separated.
CHESAPEAKE, VA. (Catholic Online) - Throughout most of the Catholic Church we celebrate the Ascension of the Lord on Thursday. In some places, the Feast is transferred to Sunday. Sadly, the Feast seems to have lost its meaning in the experience of too many Catholics and other Christians.
Does the Ascension affect our lives in the here and now? Is it a commemoration of an event which occurred 2000 years ago? Or, could it be the key that helps unlock the very meaning of our lives and the plan of God for the entire created order?
The great western Bishop Augustine proclaimed these words on the Feast: "Today our Lord Jesus Christ ascended into heaven; let our hearts ascend with him. Listen to the words of the Apostle: If you have risen with Christ, set your hearts on the things that are above where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God; seek the things that are above, not the things that are on earth. For just as he remained with us even after his ascension, so we too are already in heaven with him, even though what is promised us has not yet been fulfilled in our bodies."
When we went down into the Font of Baptism we were incorporated into Jesus Christ, made members of His Body, the Church. Therefore, as Augustine also wrote, "Where the Head is, there is the Body, where I am, there is my Church, we too are one; the Church is in me and I in her and we two are your Beloved and your Lover."
In other words, we have ascended with the Lord! He is the Head and we are members of His Body. We cannot be separated. Augustine, reflecting the clear teaching of the early Church Fathers reminds us that the Head and the Body are the "One Christ." So, this is our Feast as well!
Pope St Leo the Great reflected on the joy the disciples experienced on that glorious day in these words: " (T)hat blessed company had a great and inexpressible cause for joy when it saw man's nature rising above the dignity of the whole heavenly creation, above the ranks of angels, above the exalted status of archangels. Now would there be any limit to its upward course until humanity was admitted to a seat at the right hand of the eternal father, to be enthroned at last in the glory of him to whose nature it was wedded in the Person of the Son."
Both of these Saints remind us why we should rejoice on this Feast of the Ascension. The Ascension does not mark the end of Jesus' relationship with the Church but the beginning of a new way of His relating to the world, in and through the Church. This way includes every one of us who bear His name, by being called Christians.
You see, we have also ascended with the Lord. When viewed with the eyes of Resurrection faith the Ascension is capable of transforming the way we view ourselves and live our daily lives. We are joined to Him and He to us!
Jesus Christ bridged heaven and earth. Through His Incarnation, His Saving Life, Death and Resurrection, we have been set free from the consequences of sin, including the sting of death. (See, 1 Cor. 15:55) We are being created anew in Him daily as we freely cooperate with His grace.
One of the Catechism's definitions of grace is "a participation in Divine Life". (See, CCC #1997) It calls to mind the wonderful words of the Apostle Peter in his second letter. He reminded the early Christians that they were "participants in the Divine Nature". (2 Peter 1:4) So are we!
This Divine Life is mediated to us through the Word and the Sacraments - in the Church. We are incorporated into the Trinitarian communion of love, beginning now. The Church is not some "thing", the Church is Some-One, the Risen Christ truly present in the world which was created through Him and is being re-created in Him.
The Church is the new Israel sent into the world to continue His redemptive mission until He comes again. Then He will complete the work of Redemption. The Church, as the fathers were fond of saying, is the new world, and the world in the course of transfiguration. The Christian vocation is about learning to live this new relationship in Christ together, with the Father, through the Holy Spirit and for the sake of a world that still awaits its full redemption. that begins right now.
The Ascension of the Lord is not a final act in the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ. Nor is it some kind of "intermission" to be concluded upon Christ's Bodily return - which will most certainly occur. Rather, it is about a new way of being, living in Christ in the here and now. The Apostle Paul wrote to the early Christians in Galatia: "No longer do I live but Christ lives in me and the life I now live I live by faith in the Son of God." (Galatians 2:19, 20) That is how we are invited to live, now.
Jesus said "Abide in me as I in you" (John 15:4). These are not mere sentiments of piety but meant to become reality, now. Christians can live differently ...
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