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제목 The Deep Meaning of Jesus' Ascension(2015-05-14)
작성자 관리자 작성일 2015-05-15



The Deep Meaning of Jesus'  Ascension (14th  May  2015)

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 “I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again I leave the world, and I go to the Father”(Jn. 16:28).


  During the last supper, our Lord Jesus Christ said these words. Thereby he prophesised His Ascension. It seems simple and easy to understand, yet it is a great mystery, beautiful to contemplate.

  A superficial understanding would give the idea of someone leaving his home-city and visiting a friend, and then returning home. But this would be a very material understanding. Indeed, God is spiritual and is everywhere! So what does that mean “I came forth from the Father”? And what does that mean: “I go to the Father”? since the Father is everywhere!

  Perhaps another phrase of our Lord Jesus Christ, at the very beginning of St John’s gospel in his talk with Nicodemus, helps to understand this one. Jesus said: “no man hath ascended into heaven, but he that descended from heaven, the Son of man who is in heaven” (Jn. 3:13). He also said later to the Pharisees: “You are from beneath, I am from above” (Jn. 8:23).

  We have all been created by God, but our Lord Jesus Christ comes from the Father in a very different way. We are “made by God out of nothing”; our Lord Jesus Christ is the Son of God, “born [of Father], nor made” as we say in the Creed: his very substance comes from the substance of the Father, it is not a created substance. Now God’s nature is spiritual, it cannot be “cut in parts”: the Father could not give a “part” of his Divine Substance to His Son: the Father gave to His Son His whole Divine Substance; hence to be “begotten from the Father” means to receive the whole divine substance from the Father, and hence to be equal to the Father. This is thus what our Lord means when He says: “I came forth from the Father”: I am the only-begotten beloved Son of the Father, born of the Father from all eternity.

  Indeed in God there is no time: in the one moment of eternity, stable moment which is always present and never passes, in that one moment the Father says His Word, begets His Son, and the Son is perfectly begotten, possessing the full Divine Nature, equal with the Father. As St Paul says, for Christ it was not robbery to be “equal with God” (Phil. 2:6). The Pharisees had understood it well, who wanted to stone Him “because He made Himself equal with God”. They refused to believe, but they had understood well what He meant; and our Lord did not tell them that they misunderstood Him, on the contrary.

  The Father does not beget the Son in a material way: God is a pure spirit. The Son is the “Word of God”. Indeed the very first activity of a spirit is to think; even ourselves, God gave us an intelligence, and when we think we speak to ourselves in our mind: we say that we have “concepts”, ideas. We call them “concepts” because we conceive them. But for us, our ideas are so little, tiny, that they are more comparable to small foetuses, “concepts”. And we need many ideas to understand a little more the world around us. But God is perfects; He understands all things at once, and expressed His whole infinite knowledge in one perfect word, that fully says all what He knows, all what He is: His Word. This Word of God is so perfect that it is not a small “concept”, but rather a full-grown Son, equal with the Father. Indeed nothing less than God can adequately express what God is! He is the Eternal Word of Wisdom, Almighty Word by which all things were made, all-encompassing Word. This is what Jesus meant, saying: “I came forth from the Father”! The prophet exclaims: “who shall declare his generation?” (Is. 53:8).

 God is Charity; hence the Word of God is a “Word breathing love”, as St Thomas Aquinas says . The Father and the Son love one another so perfectly that from this burning fire there proceeds a third Person, as a Flame of Love, of Divine Charity: the Holy Ghost! He is the Spirit of Holiness, and indeed holiness consists in loving God above all things. And that love too is eternal, almighty, all-encompassing.

 So the Son of God came forth from the Father. And He is come into the world. This means the Incarnation: He took flesh in the most pure womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary by the operation of the Holy Ghost: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we saw his glory, the glory as it were of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (Jn. 1:14).

 The one who says that was blessed to be first-hand witness, who had seen, heard and even touched our Lord Jesus Christ, as he wrote in his epistle: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the word of life: For the life was manifested; and we have seen and do bear witness, and declare unto you the life eternal, which was with the Father, and hath appeared to us: That which we have seen and have heard, we declare unto you, that you also may have fellowship with us, and our fellowship may be with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you, that you may rejoice, and your joy may be full” (1 Jn. 1:1-4). This is the Incarnation! And its goal is beautifully said: to restore the friendship with God, “fellowship with the Father and the Son.”

  To fulfil this goal is the very work of Redemption: Jesus came to save: “he shall save his people from their sins” (Mt. 1:21).  He saved us by His Cross. And this is also what is meant by the next member of phrase: “again I leave the world.” Indeed we speak of “departed souls”: death is a certain way to leave the world. This is so much more true for our Lord Jesus Christ who was in control of His death, as He said: “I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No man taketh it away from me: but I lay it down of myself, and I have power to lay it down: and I have power to take it up again. This commandment have I received of my Father” (Jn. 10:17-18).

  But since He rose shortly after His death, on the third day, we may apply these words to His Ascension: “again I leave the world.” Indeed the day of the Ascension was the very last day that the Apostles saw His with the eyes of the body: He went up, blessing them, and was caught up in the clouds and they did not see Him anymore. So He left then this world.

  St Thomas Aquinas teaches us that the Ascension was useful for us in many ways. First it draws our heart to the heavenly things: “For where thy treasure is, there is thy heart also” (Mt. 6:21).  Our treasure is our Lord Jesus Christ, who now is in Heaven, therefore our heart ought to be in heaven, as St Paul says: “Therefore, 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. For you are dead [to sin/to the world]; and your life is hid with Christ in God” (Col. 3:1-3).

  Secondly, it gives us a greater merit for faith: if we could go somewhere on earth and see Christ risen and still living, our faith would have much less merit; but now “blessed are they that have not seen, and have believed” (Jn. 20:29).

  Thirdly, it increases our reverence for Christ, since He is now “sitting at the right hand of God the Father almighty!” And therefore it increases our love for Him also.

  Fourthly because He is preparing a place for us, as He said: “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I shall go, and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and will take you to myself; that where I am, you also may be” (Jn. 14:2-3).

  And last but not least, at the right hand of the Father He is “always living to make intercession for us” as St Paul says to the Hebrews (Heb. 7:25).

  Thus “I leave the world, and I go to the Father” (Jn. 16:28) signifies the Ascension. But there are two aspect to the Ascension: the departure from the world, which was visible and is easy to understand; and the arrival: and that is not easy to understand. Indeed, since God is everywhere, what does that mean “I go to the Father”?

  As St Thomas explained above, it certainly means that our Lord Jesus Christ, not only in His Divine nature, but even in his human nature transcends all creatures, even the highest angels. This is what is meant by “sitting at the right hand of God the Father almighty”. His glorification is the reward of His sacrifice, the reward of the work of Redemption, as St Paul wrote: “He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross. For which cause God also hath exalted him, and hath given him a name which is above all names: That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth: And that every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:8-11).

  But I think there is more to this “return to the Father”. St Paul says to the Corinthians: “as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive. But every one in his own order: the first-fruits Christ, then they that are of Christ, who have believed in his coming. Afterwards the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God and the Father, when he shall have brought to nought all principality, and power, and virtue. For he must reign, until he hath put all his enemies under his feet. And the enemy death shall be destroyed last: For he hath put all things under his feet… And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then the Son also himself shall be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all” (1 Cor. 15:22-28).

 The very word “first-fruits” shows that we are in a sacrificial context: the first fruits of all trees and animals had to be offered to God in the Old Testament. Now here St Paul says that Christ (in His human nature) rose first, as the “first-fruit” of mankind offered to God; then the members of Christ, and then everyone else. Then Christ shall “deliver the kingdom to God the Father”: this again is an offering, Christ came back from this world to the Father, not alone but with the members of His Mystical Body as an offering to the glory of God. Indeed Jesus said to Nicodemus: “no man hath ascended into heaven, but he that descended from heaven, the Son of man who is in heaven” (Jn. 3:13) Does that mean that nobody would go to Heaven? St Augustine says: He descended alone, He returns to Heaven with the members of His Mystical Body, the Church – the good members, after He would have cleansed His kingdom from all the scandals in the Great Judgement at the end of the world.

 So the Saints in Heaven are “delivered to, offered to the Father”: they live for ever not for themselves, but for the glory of the Most Holy Trinity – and in this consists their beatitude, their unending happiness, to delight themselves in the Supreme Good: not living for themselves but living for Him and rejoicing in Him.

  I think this aspect of the Ascension is very important: Christ has fulfilled His mission, He returns to the Father, but not alone: He returns with the Saints – his trophies! – and offers them to the Father. He beatifies them by making them see the Father face to face, hear the Word, and burn with the Love of the Holy Spirit for all eternity. In this way, the Ascension will be fully complete when the whole Mystical Body of Christ will be there with its Head, as our Lord prayed in his marvellous prayer: “Father, I will that where I am, they also whom thou hast given me may be with me; that they may see my glory which thou hast given me, because thou hast loved me before the creation of the world” (Jn. 17:24).

  My dear brethren, let us understand this divine plan of Redemption in Christ, and fully enter into this plan, by leaving behind all earthly things and pursuing with our whole heart this heavenly goal, to be with Christ and see His glory for ever! And for this, let us ask the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is already there, as the Queen on the side of the King (see Ps. 44), to help us to live faithfully to our Lord Jesus Christ, to His law, keeping the faith and practicing it to our best, so that we may reach this ultimate goal in Heaven. Amen!


Fr. F. Laisney (sspxasia)