Year of Faith Reflection Corner

 He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. The Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ is very significant and very crucial in our salvation history. In the Apostle’s Creed, we profess our faith in these words: He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. Do we truly grasp the meaning of these words in our hearts? What does Christ’s Ascension really mean to us as Christians? Do we think that Jesus has ascended to Heaven and left us orphans?

How can anyone believe that Jesus who has united Himself with our own humanity and is like us in everything except sin, who paid such a great price for our Redemption with His Blood and died such an ignominious death on the Cross, who rose from the dead, and has now taken His seat at the Father’s side, would ever forget us, after all He has done to open Heaven for us and reconcile us to the Father. How about all the troubles, challenges and sufferings that the people of Christ are facing daily in the world, do we feel that our hope has been shattered in the midst of so much pain? It is my prayer as you read that the Holy Spirit will enkindle in your hearts a deeper faith in Jesus, and awaken in you a joyful hope for heaven.

If we ever doubt the meaning of our own existence on earth, Christ’s Ascension should enlighten us. From the beginning of Creation, God’s ultimate plan for us is to live happily with Him forever. Not that God has any need of us, but because of His great love for us and His desire to share His Divine Life with us in Heaven for all eternity.  According to St. Leo the Great: “Christ’s Ascension is our own ascension; our body has the hope of one day being where its glorious Head has preceded it. By going before us, Jesus gave us the right to follow him there some day.” In other words, our place in heaven is ready and guaranteed and it is up to us now to live our lives in such a way as to be worthy of it, to live as children of God by following in Christ’s footsteps. Listen carefully to the words of the great apostle Paul: “If you have risen with Christ, set your hearts on the things that are above where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God; seek the things that are above, not the things that are on earth.” (Colossians 3: 1-2)

Christ’s Ascension helps us understand in a much deeper and most intimate way the relationship between Jesus, the bridegroom and the Church, His bride. This Solemnity should fill us with great joy, hope and a sweet foretaste of heaven. Although we are not there yet, we indeed are there with Christ in spirit. We, the members of the Church, are the Body of Christ, the Head. Since the body cannot be separated from the Head, we can be sure that Christ is united with us always and is even much closer to us now through His Spirit than when he was on earth. St Paul reminds us that we are still united to Jesus, for in Christ “we have access to the Father.” (Ephesians 2:18). Christ took His seat at God’s right hand as our high priest “to make intercession for us because He lives forever.” (Hebrews 7:25) Therefore, Christ not only understands our troubles and difficulties, He also suffers them with us.

I love this beautiful quote from the Office of Readings: “Christ is now exalted above the heavens, but he still suffers on earth all the pain that we, the members of his body, have to bear. He showed this when he cried out from above: Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? And when he said: I was hungry and you gave me food. Why do we on earth not strive to find rest with him in heaven even now through the faith, hope and love that unites us with him?” ( St. Augustine)

Lately I have been doing a lot of reading on the Jewish marriage customs in Jesus’ time to help my understanding of the Bridegroom Jesus and the Church, His Bride. I found it fascinating and hope this will shed much light for you on the meaning of Christ’s Ascension.

Dr. Brant Pitre, a Catholic theologian who specializes in the study of the New Testament and Judaism in his CD “The Bridegroom Messiah”, which I highly recommend and all his other audio presentations by going to  www.BrantPitre.com, has stated two main points of our salvation history: He said: “First, the fundamental shape and scope of salvation history which is God’s Plan to save the world is nuptial. It is marital. Second, God’s ultimate plan is to wed himself to humanity in an everlasting marital covenant” What a beautiful meditation this is!!!

 The Comforting Promise

Jesus said: “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.” (John14: 2-3)

In a nutshell, the Jewish Marriage customs in Jesus’ time involved four different stages: First, the betrothal period, which was binding. When a young man saw a girl he liked, he would take the initiative and travel from his father’s house to the home of the prospective bride. There he would negotiate with the father as to the price for the bride, and then he would make a marriage covenant with the bride, an actual contract which includes the “Bride Price”. Secondly, if the proposal is accepted, then the young man would drink a cup of wine with her which sealed the contract. Thirdly, the young man would leave to prepare the wedding chamber for the Bride which needed his father’s approval before he could come back to collect his bride. If anyone asked the young man when the wedding would take place, he would reply “I don’t know, only my father knows”, but before leaving, he would give a little speech “I go to prepare a place for you”. The contract, cup and money were her security. The young man and woman were regarded as husband and wife. From that moment on the bride was declared to be consecrated, set apart exclusively for her bridegroom. During this state of separation, the bride remained vigilant and made herself pure and prepared herself for married life since she had absolutely no idea when the bridegroom would return for her. The final stage is the wedding.

Read this beautiful analogy regarding the thirst stage by Dr. Showers: “Just as the Jewish groom left the home of his bride and returned to his Father’s house after the marriage covenant had been established, so Jesus left the earth, the home of the Church, and returned to His Father’s house in heaven after He had established the new covenant and risen from the dead. “(John 6:62; 20:17)

-Sr. Mary Jacinta of the Most Holy Rosary, OP