“Of all the feasts of Our Lord, I venture to say that…the Ascension is the greatest, because it is the supreme glorification of Christ Jesus” (Blessed Columbra Marmion)
In this short note I wish to make four points about the Ascension of Jesus into Heaven.
1. JESUS ASCENDED TO THE RIGHT HAND OF HE FATHER
In the Ascension Jesus is lifted up, is raised higher and higher, until we can see that He is above all else! If there are earthly powers, if there are heavenly powers, if there are demonic powers, Jesus is “Lord of the cosmos” and all creation is subject to him (see CCC 668), for “to which of the angels did God ever say, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet’?” (Hebrews 1:13). Only Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father, “far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come” (Ephesians 1:21). In the Ascension, then, we see in the clearest terms that Jesus is Lord, or rather the Lord-God.
It is the ascension of the risen Lord Jesus into Heaven that marks his sovereign Lordship over all things! If in his earthly life Jesus humbled himself to a remarkable degree in order to save us from sin, his ascension constitutes his “supreme exaltation” in light of the “incommensurable glory conferred upon His Holy Humanity” (Blessed Columbra Marmion).
Saint Paul puts it this way:
“And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death– even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phillipians 2: 8-11).
We read in Marks’s Gospel that after Jesus ascended into Heaven he “sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand” (Mark 16:19). “By ‘the Father’s right hand’ we understand the glory and honor of divinity, where he who exists as Son of God before all ages, indeed as God, of one being with the Father, is seated bodily after he became incarnate and his flesh was glorified” (CCC 663). “Being seated at the Father’s right hand signifies the inauguration of the Messiah’s kingdom, the fulfillment of the prophet Daniel’s vision concerning the Son of man: ‘To him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.’ After this event the apostles became witnesses of the ‘kingdom [that] will have no end'” (CCC 664).
2. WE TOO WILL ASCEND ONE DAY TO THE FATHER!
The Lord’s Ascension was essentially for us! After all, his mission of redemption was for us. Thus Jesus said to the apostles, and says also to us, “I ascend to My Father and to your Father, to my God and your God” (John 20:17). Really, those are pretty amazing words which demand our attention and meditation. Jesus also said that, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 20:17).
“The lifting up of Jesus on the cross signifies and announces his lifting up by his Ascension into heaven, and indeed begins it. Jesus Christ, the one priest of the new and eternal Covenant, ‘entered, not into a sanctuary made by human hands. . . but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.’ There Christ permanently exercises his priesthood, for he ‘always lives to make intercession’ for ‘those who draw near to God through him’. As ‘high priest of the good things to come’ he is the center and the principal actor of the liturgy that honors the Father in heaven” (CCC 662).
Finally, Saint Paul states that we too already have a seat reserved in Heaven with Jesus due to God’s great love for us in Christ Jesus:
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2: 4-7).
3. WE ARE STILL UNDER ATTACK UNTIL THE SECOND COMING OF JESUS
“Though already present in his Church, Christ’s reign is nevertheless yet to be fulfilled ‘with power and great glory’ by the King’s return to earth. This reign is still under attack by the evil powers, even though they have been defeated definitively by Christ’s Passover. Until everything is subject to him, ‘until there be realized new heavens and a new earth in which justice dwells, the pilgrim Church, in her sacraments and institutions, which belong to this present age, carries the mark of this world which will pass, and she herself takes her place among the creatures which groan and travail yet and await the revelation of the sons of God.’ That is why Christians pray, above all in the Eucharist, to hasten Christ’s return by saying to him: Marana tha! ‘Our Lord, come!’ “ (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 671).
4. THE ASCENSION IS A DEMONSTRATION OF GOD’S IMMEASURABLE POWER THAT FLOWS THROUGH TO US THROUGH FAITH IN JESUS
The power that flows to us in faith through an appreciation of Christ’s Ascension is really quite extraordinary. In order to understand what God’s power is capable of doing in us, we are given the supreme example of what it did in Jesus Christ. “All this is said to exalt our sense of the Divine power that so raised up and exalted the God-Man, Christ Jesus – [that is] the same power that still works in believers” (Pulpit Commentary). What Saint Paul is saying in the amazing quote from Ephesians below is that, through the trajectory of Jesus’ Resurrection and Ascension, we can see the immense greatness of God’s power, and through a special spiritual blessing we can further see that this same power is at work in our own lives even here on planet earth, all of which is a great source of hope and confidence for us.
“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come” (Ephesians 1: 18-22).
Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven clearly manifests his universal Lordship over all things. “And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way” (Ephesians 1:23).
Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A.
P.S. See also, pertaining to the High Priesthood of Jesus in Heaven,
Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A.
References: My primary and key reference for the content of this note is Christ In His Mysteries by Blessed Dom Columbra Marmion (B. Herder Book Co.), Chapter 16.
Image: Ascension by John Singleton Copley, 1775, Public Domain, U.S.A.
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