Happy Feast of Our Lord’s Ascension!
A blessed Feast of Our Lord’s Ascension to you! On this fortieth day after Easter Sunday, the Church commemorates our glorified Redeemer’s triumphal entrance into Heaven.
“Leading captivity captive,” He ascended by His own power (that is, of His glorified human nature) to His rightful place of honor in Heaven, taking with Himself the countless souls whom He had delivered from the Limbo of the Fathers – once held captive by the devil, but now captives of a happy taking, as St. Thomas says, since they were acquired for Heaven by Christ’s victory over the devil.
Praise to the Divine Heart that wrought our salvation! To It be glory and honor forever, Amen!
Reflections on the Feast of the Ascension:
“It Is Expedient to You That I Go”
by Fr. William Graham
Our first tribute of love and duty to the ascending Christ is one of triumph in His glory; our next, a personal outpouring of gratitude for the blessings accruing to us from His departure. Time and experience have verified His own authoritative words, “It is expedient to you that I go.” And yet these words must have sounded strange when first heard on the eve of His Passion, and echoed much more strangely on Olivet as they raised their tear-dimmed eyes towards the cloud enwrapping their Master as He soared aloft. He had been all in all to them. He had instilled into them unlimited and unquestioning confidence in His person, so that He was the very center and pivot of their lowly lives. Yet now He tells them, it is expedient that He should leave them.
But, like the disciples, we know Him Whom we have believed, and are convinced that the gifts He left behind and sent on His departure far transcend in value the hearing and seeing with carnal eyes and ears, and handling with bodily contact the Word of Life. Is He not clearer and surer to the eye of faith today than to the fallible impression of sense were He still among us in the flesh? But we could see Him and hear Him and even touch “the hem of his garment,” you will say. “Blessed are they that have not seen, and have believed.” Faith is a safe avenue to Christ. The mother of the Zebedees saw and heard Jesus in the flesh, yet how low and earthly were her views of His kingdom put side by side with those of a Catherine of Siena or a Teresa of Avila!
In these and many other ways we realize the expediency of our Lord’s departure. The loss of His visible presence was the Church’s gain. He did not leave us orphans. He ascended on high to obtain gifts for men, and foremost among them all, the gift of the Holy Ghost. Pentecost is the completion and revelation of the hidden meaning of the Ascension.
And we know that this connection is a necessary one, inasmuch as Our Lord says, “If I go not away, the Comforter will not come.” The advent of the Holy Spirit was the first-fruits of Our Lord’s Ascension. Not that Our Lord ceased to be with His Church. His departure in His human form intensified His real though unseen presence. He withdrew in the flesh to return in the spirit. He is among us “all days, even to the end of the world,” not only as an influence by the example of the holy life He led and the far-reaching grace and unction of His moral teaching, but, personally, in the fullness of His humanity, in this Blessed Sacrament; and as God, in the Third Person of the adorable Trinity, in the plenitude of the Holy Ghost poured out at Pentecost, and still brooding over and quickening with life the Church as a body and her members singly.
The work of sanctification and enlightenment still goes on. The Spirit that Christ sent to be the soul of His mystical body is ever bringing back to consciousness the words and mind of Jesus, and applying them to the needs and wants of passing time. Teachers and Doctors and Popes and councils make known to fresh generations of men the thoughts and meaning of the Lord, ever drawing from the treasure of Him Who was the Way, the Truth, and the Life, things new and old, ever speaking as those having authority. In the Ascension, it is true, Jesus was removed from sight but revealed in faith; and faith brings the invisible God nearer to us than bodily eye or ear.
Furthermore, by His solemn entry into Heaven Christ opened the gates of Heaven closed against the human race by sin. The Head of the great Body which we belong to is now glorified in Heaven, and we, as members of this Body, the Church triumphant, and by virtue of the Redemption wrought by Christ, are destined to take our place there as well. Once lost and closed by sin, Heaven has been regained and reopened in the Ascension of Christ “who led captivity captive” (Eph. 4:8). “I go,” said He to His disciples, “to prepare a place for you, … that where I am, you also may be” (John 14:3).
Nor is His presence in Heaven inactive in our regard. His presence there is an intense, perpetual act of intercessory prayer for us. He pleads unceasingly for us, and His intercession gives worth and value to our own. The wounds in hand and foot and side, the pierced heart, cry for pity to the throne of God: “For Jesus is not entered into the holies made with hands, . . . but into Heaven itself, that He may appear now in the presence of God for us” (Heb. 9:24). “Having therefore a great high priest that hath passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, … let us go therefore with confidence to the throne of grace” (Heb. 4:14,16).
“Therefore,” says St. Paul, “if you be risen with Christ, seek the things that are above; where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God: Mind the things that are above, not the things that are upon the earth…. When Christ shall appear, who is your life, then you also shall appear with Him in glory” (Col. 3:1-4).