There is a parallel between Christ being raised up on the Cross, when the veil of the Temple was torn from top to bottom giving the people access to the Throne of Mercy; and Jesus being taken up into heaven, when the heavens were torn open giving the people ready access to the heavenly homeland. We have only to recall the words recounted in the Gospel of John: “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now, though you will follow later” (Jn. 13:36). We have the Lord's assurance that we will, one day, follow Him into His heavenly dwelling place. As we journey towards the Kingdom, we have the assurance of God's boundless mercy for any of our misguided steps.
|Jesus' Ascension into Heaven by John Singleton Copley, 1775|
For the weeks after Easter, the Mass liturgy directed our attention to the Farewell Discourse of Jesus recounted in the Gospel of John. These words were addressed to the apostles as Jesus was preparing for the events of His great Passover. With these words He instructed the disciples to peer through the veil and approach the Throne of Mercy. While the prospects of boundless mercy were awe inspiring, the price the Master was about to pay was heart wrenching. Seeing their distress at the thought of His absence, Jesus sought to console them by promising to send a Helper to accompany them in all their undertakings. The promise Jesus made to the disciples, He likewise makes to us.
Even though we are deprived of physical contact with the Risen Lord, we are not left without a Guide and Companion for the journey. Jesus reminds us that His departure is necessary. His Ascension into heaven proved that the ransom was accepted. In His flesh, Jesus demonstrated that the children of Adam and Eve once again had access into Paradise. The descent of the Holy Spirit was to be the first fruit of Christ’s return to the Father’s right hand. The coming of the Spirit is the sign that the Father had, in fact, looked upon the sacrificial offering of His only-begotten Son with a serene and kindly countenance. More than that, He actually received it on His altar on high in the sight of His divine majesty.
The Lamb that was slain, lives now in the presence of the Father to intercede for us so that we may be open to the promptings of the Spirit Who is our Advocate and Guide. By breathing forth the life-creating Spirit, the Son Who is nearest the Father’s heart gives us access to the community of Love and the glory of universal harmony that is the Trinity. When you stop and think about it, there really is nothing more wonderful and great as this life hidden with Christ in God.
--Fr. Jerome Machar OSCO