Chapter Talk for the Feast of the Ascension
19 May 2015
Chapter Talk by Mother Marie for the Feast of the Ascension 2015
Reflecting on today’s feast of our Lord’s Ascension, I find at least four great graces to be celebrated:
1) The Closeness of the Lord Jesus to us. In his book “Jesus of Nazareth” Pope Benedict writes: Because Jesus is with the Father, he has not gone away but remains close to us. Now he is no longer in one particular place in the world as he had been before the “Ascension”: now, through his power over space, he is present and accessible to all – throughout history and in every place”.....His going away is then a new form of closeness, of continuing presence. Christ’s presence is no longer limited to a small group in one place at a particular time, now his presence is with us through his body, the Church. It is this mystery of Christ’s presence we celebrate today: Ascension is not about Christ’s absence, but about his presence in a different way to that which he had before his death. The grace is to live with a faith vision – to live as though seeing the invisible; to interpret events in faith and find the wonder of Christ’s guiding hand….then we become people of wisdom and gratitude.
2) We can pray with and through Christ to the Father and our prayer is heard and answered. One of the Collects says: “Christ, our High Priest is seated ever living at the Father’s right hand to intercede for us, grant that we may approach with confidence the throne of grace and there obtain your mercy” Because he is now at the right hand of the Father interceding for us, Christ’s Ascension means that he no longer belongs to the world of death, decay and corruption. He has taken human existence into God’s presence. He takes flesh and blood in a transfigured form, in a resurrected form, into God’s eternal presence and there intercedes for all of humanity. Through Christ we are brought into the very life of God, we find room in God. Christ has not departed from us, but he is now, thanks to his being with the Father, close to each one of us forever. Christ is honoured, now at the Father’s right hand in heaven; The Ascension also tells us that when we pray, “our humanity is brought to the heights of God, so every time we pray, the earth joins with Heaven.” “And like burning incense, its fragrant smoke reaches on high,” Pope Benedict said of prayer, adding that “when we raise our fervent and trusting prayer in Christ to the Lord, it crosses the heavens and reaches the Throne of God, it is heard by Him and answered.
3) The Church, in union with Christ, continues his mission and work . The mystery of ascension is that his presence with us and our witness to him cannot be separated. The Gospel passage proclaimed today bears witness to this: “So then the Lord Jesus… was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God. But they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them…” Jesus can now be with the apostles, and with us, in a new and powerful way precisely because he is definitively and entirely in the presence and reality of God the Father. We have the Lord Jesus with us in a way that is deeper and more intimate because he is at God’s right hand. He is with us and with all those whom we love, because he is at God’s right hand. His presence with and in us is absolutely certain, but is grasped only in faith. This feast is our proclamation that Christ is now to be found everywhere as the Risen One forming a kingdom for his Father, and so in every area of life we, his disciples, must be witnessing to him. In rising from the dead, the whole creation has been transformed and we can live a deeper level of life always involved in the formation of God’s Kingdom and always seeking to do His will.... and we can expect signs of healing, of casting out demons, of the gift of saying the right thing!
4) The Preface says, “He ascended not to distance himself from our lowly state but that we, his members, might be confident of following where he, our Head and Founder, has gone before.” We have, in Christ, who has entered heaven itself on our behalf, the assurance of eternal salvation, the perfection of our existence and desires. There we will “enter into joy,” as St Augustine writes. And the promise of certain, lasting and perfect joy, brings to us already a joy in hope. Today we ought to rejoice as we look forward to the fullness of eternal life. Jesus has gone ahead of us, and is now in the fullness of God. He is present to God in the fullness of his humanity, which includes his body. When the disciples looked up did they realize that a new and wonderful horizon was opening up before their eyes: that the human pilgrimage had a goal, a destination, an unending life with the Trinity and with all who inhabit heaven. Perhaps they only realized this at Pentecost, in the light of the Holy Spirit. But for us, at a distance of two thousand years, the meaning of that event is quite clear. Here on earth, we are called to keep our gaze fixed on our homeland; look up to heaven; keep the longing alive so that our lives here prepare us for this final encounter with God. God delights in us and will not allow anyone to be lost. Where he has gone, we the members of his body, will follow.
A day to celebrate our faith, to rejoice in Christ’s glory and power!
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