Why Do We Celebrate the Feast of the Ascension of Jesus? What Does it Mean?
FREE Catholic Classes
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him. In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ, in accord with the favor of his will, for the praise of the glory of his grace that he granted us in the beloved. In him we have redemption by his blood, the forgiveness of transgressions, in accord with the riches of his grace that he lavished upon us.In all wisdom and insight, he has made known to us the mystery of his will in accord with his favor that he set forth in him as a plan for the fullness of times, to sum up all things in Christ, in heaven and on earth. In him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, which is the first installment of our inheritance toward redemption as God's possession, to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:3-14)
The Ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ
CHESAPEAKE, VA. (Catholic Online) - Throughout most of the Catholic Church around the world we celebrate the Ascension of the Lord on this Thursday. In some places, the Feast is transferred to Sunday.
However, whether celebrated on Thursday or Sunday, it is meant to be a cause for celebration. It can be - IF we allow the Holy Spirit to show us what it really means.
The Feast has lost its meaning in the experience of too many Catholics and other Christians.
Does the Ascension of Jesus affect our lives in the here and now?
Is this Feast a commemoration of an event which occurred 2000 years ago? Or, could it help unlock the meaning of our lives right now? Does it point to the plan of God for the entire created order?
This is meant to be a Feast of profound meaning and promise. However, it requires us to reflect on who Jesus is - and who we are empowered to become in Him.
The Feast of the Ascension of the Lord Jesus helps to explain the Christian vocation. It points to the ongoing plan of redemption for each of us. It gives us a glimpse of the loving plan of God for the whole of creation.
This Feast also points us toward a deeper understanding of the Feast of Pentecost which we will soon celebrate. The very Breath of God, His Holy Spirit, has been breathed into the Body of Christ, the Church - and into each one of us as members of that Body.
That Spirit makes it possible for us to live differently - beginning right now. It is at work within us, transforming us more and more into His Image and Likeness, as we cooperate with the gift of grace.
That Spirit empowers and equips us to participate in the ongoing redemptive mission of Jesus Christ, as it continues through His Body, the Church.
We have ascended with Jesus Christ - and are called to live on this earth the very realities of heaven. This is meant to begin in the here and now, to be completed in the fullness of time.
The redemptive plan of God in Jesus Christ will not be complete until the same Jesus who ascended returns and hands the re-created cosmos back to the Father.
That is what the Apostle Paul calls "the plan", or the "mystery" now revealed in Jesus Christ. (See, e.g., Col. 1)
So, what am I saying?
The Feast of the Ascension reveals the meaning of our lives and points to the plan of God for the entire created order.
Is that how we understand the Feast? I think we more commonly think of the Ascension as some kind of intermission. Now, we must strive to do the best we can until Jesus returns.
However, the Ascension is not an intermission at all. The event we remember in this Feast reveals the mission of the Church - and our call to participate in it.
Jesus Christ has not left us. He is continuing His loving, redemptive plan through His Body, the Church, of which we are members.
The Head and the Body cannot be separated.
The great western Bishop Augustine proclaimed these words in a homily he preached on the Feast of the Ascension:
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 passed through the waters of the Font of Baptism we were incorporated into Jesus Christ and became 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."
Augustine, reflecting the clear teaching of the early Church Fathers, reminds us that the Head and the Body united are the "One Christ." In other words, we ascended with the Lord! He is the Head and we are members of His Body. We cannot be separated.
So, this is our Feast!
We live in Christ by living in His Body, the Church, of which we are members. We are invited to live in the heart of the Church for the sake of the world.
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 Augustine and Leo point us to the deeper meaning of this Feast.
The Ascension does not mark the end of Jesus' relationship with His Church but the beginning of a new way of His relating to the world - in and through His Church.
This way includes every one of us who now bear His name. When viewed with the eyes of living faith the Ascension can begin to change the way we view ourselves and live our daily lives.
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! We participate in the Divine Nature.
The Divine Life of the Risen Savior is mediated to us through the Word and the Sacraments - in and through the Church, which is the Body of Christ. Grace is the very life of God.
We have been incorporated into the Trinitarian communion of love, beginning now, because we live in Jesus Christ. We are members of His Body, the Church.
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 now being re-created in Him.
The Church is the seed of the coming Kingdom, planted and sent into the world to continue His redemptive mission until He comes again.
When He does return, He will complete the work of Redemption.
The Church, as the early fathers were fond of saying, is the new world, the world in the course of transfiguration.
The Christian vocation invites us to live this new relationship in Jesus Christ together, with the Father, through the Holy Spirit. We are invited to live in the Heart of the Church, for the sake of the World.
So, the Feast of the Ascension is not an Intermission.
The Feast reveals the continuation of the Redemptive mission of Jesus Christ and the great and wonderful plan of the God of Love.
Let me conclude with some words from the great Apostle and mystic Paul who reflects on this loving plan of God:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him.
In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ, in accord with the favor of his will, for the praise of the glory of his grace that he granted us in the beloved. In him we have redemption by his blood, the forgiveness of transgressions, in accord with the riches of his grace that he lavished upon us.
In all wisdom and insight, he has made known to us the mystery of his will in accord with his favor that he set forth in him as a plan for the fullness of times, to sum up all things in Christ, in heaven and on earth.
In him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, which is the first installment of our inheritance toward redemption as God's possession, to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:3-14)
Happy Feast Church!
Copyright 2019 - Distributed by THE CALIFORNIA NETWORK
On the fourth anniversary of Laudato Si', the bishops of California challenged the community to grow in an "ecological conversion" that ... continue reading
Before the month is out, the US Supreme Court is expected to issue its decision in an establishment clause case with the potential to ... continue reading
State Rep. Brian Sims is facing possible censure in the Pennsylvania legislature following his harassment and attempts to dox women and ... continue reading
An Oregon bakery whose owners declined to make a cake celebrating a same-sex commitment ceremony will get another chance in court, after ... continue reading
While the spring meeting of the U.S. bishops' conference has only just concluded, some bishops are already looking to the election of new ... continue reading
by Catholic Online
- Daily Readings for Thursday, June 20, 2019
- California bishops call Catholics to 'ecological spirituality'
- Daily Reading for Friday, June 21st, 2019 HD Video
- BRAND NEW SERIES - 'The Knights Templar' - COMING SOON! HD Video
- German doctors fined for abortion ads
- Kenyan court rules that rape victims have right to abortion
- St. Vincent Kaun: Saint of the Day for Thursday, June 20, 2019
- Daily Reading for Thursday, June 20th, 2019 HD
- Prayer Requests Live for Tuesday, June 18th, 2019 HD
- Prayer Requests Live for Monday, June 17th, 2019 HD
- Daily Reading for Wednesday, June 19th, 2019 HD
Learn about Catholic world
Inform - Inspire - Ignite
Catholic Online Saints
Your saints explained
Catholic Online Prayers
Prayers for every need
Catholic Online Bible
Complete bible online
Catholic Online News
Your news Catholic eye
Today's bible reading
Products and services we offer
Catholic Online Shopping
Catholic medals, gifts & books
Advertise on Catholic Online
Your ads on catholic.org
Catholic Online Email
Email with Catholic feel
Learn the Catholic way
Catholic Online School
Free Catholic education for all
K-12 & Adult Education Classes
Support Free Education
Tax deductible support Free education
Copyright 2019 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2019 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.
Catholic Online is a Project of Your Catholic Voice Foundation, a Not-for-Profit Corporation. Your Catholic Voice Foundation has been granted a recognition of tax exemption under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Federal Tax Identification Number: 81-0596847. Your gift is tax-deductible as allowed by law.