The Festival of Ascension
The feast day of the Ascension has a little of everything in it—Christmas, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, and the anticipation of Pentecost.
Forty days after his resurrection, on a Thursday, our Lord gathered his disciples on a hillside in Galilee. After final instructions, he left this world with his visible presence and reascended to his native heaven. There, he sits at the right hand of the Father in eternity with his exalted human nature intact. He did not discard his humanity after his work on earth was finished, but took it with him! Although Jesus has removed his visible presence from us at his Ascension, he has not removed his effective presence from us. He and all his gifts are fully present in the message of the gospel.
This day is a triumph for Christ, a festival of victory. He certainly deserves this triumph! He left his Father’s throne in heaven and humbled himself to be born as one of his own created creatures. He lay in a crude stable in Bethlehem, fled to Egypt from his own people, and traveled to exhaustion throughout Israel to lead the lost sheep back to the fold. He experienced misunderstanding and lovelessness and finally suffered the physical and mental anguish of the Passion from Gethsemane to Golgotha. Why all this? Because he loved us. For what purpose? To purchase our freedom from the power of the devil and to lead us home into the heavenly fatherland. To this work he devoted all his love, his heart’s blood, everything. This work is now completed. Today he may look back joyfully upon his finished life’s work. He returns to heaven as Victor. This day is the festival of the human Christ’s ascension to the throne and of his crowning as the King of heaven and earth.
Ascension Day is a feast of gladness for Christ, but also for us. Our Brother’s glorification by his Ascension is also the elevation of our human nature—it is also our glorification. Our human nature participates in the highest divine honor. Christ entered heaven in his human body and he sits on God’s throne in his human nature. One human, our Head, sits upon the throne of God, and therefore we, the members of his mystical body, are deified. A divine nobility is conferred upon us. But sin does not ascend to heaven with Christ. Sin is a bond that attaches us to earth and must be broken. First we ascend and live in heaven with our hearts and wills and desires even while still temporarily living on earth. Later we shall follow our Lord into heaven with body and soul also.