Our Biblical Blog /'Examined Life'
Our Biblical Blog /'Examined Life'
Ascension as our being
Guardini has a challenging insight into the Lord’s return to Heaven. ‘Perhaps we will experience that the Ascension was not simply a unique occurrence in the life of Jesus, but rather above all, the manner in which He is given to us: as one vanishing into heaven, into the Unconditional which is God.’ (Romano Guardini, The Picture of Jesus in the New Testament)
Thus, the Lord’s Ascension is neither a ‘miraculous event’, nor a mere departure from the disciples. Rather, Ascension - with Jesus - is the mode of existence, the way life for us Christians. It is Jesus’ work, continued work of Salvation. From our selfish point of view, Ascension is our being severed from his ‘tangible’ company. In remembering his Ascension, we tend to mourn the loss of his closeness.
The feast of Ascension, however, invites us to raise above this underlying narcissistic mourning. If we do so, the work of our faith, our efforts in prayer and charity, will be experienced as a precious journey. We, Christian disciples, are invited to join in our Lord’s Ascension. This return, again, is not a one-off trip. It is rather, just like that of Jesus, a joyful return: a joyful toiling for the Kingdom of God. It is not accidental that Ascension is followed by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. This is the Spirit of a continuous journey, a continuous work - literally an opus Dei (work for God) in the progressive present.
So, when we see growth in our community, it is Ascension. When we experience joy, when we experience consolation and compassion, it is Ascension. When we work together, it is Ascension. His ascension.
Indeed, the Church is his continuous Ascension. It is through the toiling of the church that Jesus is visible again. His Ascension, through our participation in it, is a visible presence. Maybe we don’t see him as his contemporaries did, but we see his arrivals, as marked points of his Ascension. And these are these ‘arrivals’, like the intense moment of breaking the Bread with him, which are real encounters. Maybe we don’t see Him (as our innate narcissism desires it), but they show Jesus. Yes, the innate narcissism of the disciple yearns for a secure vision, but there is much more to mature faith.
This maturity is fully described in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Ephesians 4,1-16, to put it simply, shows the fruits of the Ascension of the Lord, if we make it ours. We can discover a fresh meaning in the enigmatic words: ‘Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?’ This fresh meaning is about the above ‘incarnation’ of his ascent. It refers to the joyful and fruitful works of our faith, here, in the Church-part of the Kingdom of God. ‘He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.’
It is this Ascension (as the continued opus Dei on earth!) which produces ‘prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers.’ ‘For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body for Christ.’ Ascension is indeed our being - our mission, our vision.
And it is this new sight of Jesus that makes us ‘henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love.’
Jesus’ Ascension is a far firmer grip of existence than any external vision of the Lord.
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These are verbal Icons, expressions of how the world is seen from Saint Augustine's..