The Ascension of Jesus
The Ascension is the capstone of the life of Jesus, made up of three events, which include de final departure of Jesus from earth, his going up into heaven, and the taking of his place at the right hand of the Father.
Forty days after his Resurrection, Jesus ascended into heaven by his own power in the presence of his disciples, taking his place at the right hand of the Father, the place he had from eternity, but from now on as a Man-God… and, on top of it, his promise of Pentecost, and the promise of the angels of his Second Coming, as narrated in Acts 1:6-12, Mark 16:19, and Luke 24:50-51.
For a Christian, the Ascension is the climax of his life in Christ: Jesus, in his Ascension, is the first fruits, a pledge to our glorification (1Cor.15:23)… and still more: When Jesus went up to Heaven, he didn't go to a far place. Heaven is where Jesus is. If Jesus is in you, the whole Heaven is in your heart, right now!, including the Father and the Holy Spirit, and the Blessed mother, and all the angels and saints… because where Jesus is, there is the Father and the Spirit, and where Jesus is, there is the Blessed Mother and all the angels and saints…
… A Christian is now the temple of God, the home or dwelling of God (Jn.14:23,17, 1Cor.3:16-17, 6:19)… and right now!… it is mind-boggling, but it is, as Paul cries out, when he says that a Christian by Baptism not only was crucified with Christ and resurrected with Christ, but also "God raised us up with him, and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Eph.2:6, Rom.6:3-10)… and it so because every Christian is a member of the Mystical Body of Christ, and where the Head of that Body is, every member of that Body is… and right now, alleluia! (1Cor.12, Eph.4, Colos.3)…
… Thus, St. Paul urges us to live our lives now as if we had already died, had risen, and had ascended with Christ. In a mystical sense we had done that, in that our Head has done that. In a physical sense it is still in the future.
… A Christian is living all of this right now, temporarily, and in faith… but after his death, it will be the "end of times" for him, the end of time and space, which it is what it means the "end of times", because in the eternity there is no time nor space, "one day is a like thousand years, and a thousand years is like one day" (2Pet.3:8, Ps.90:4)… the Christian will be ascended into Heaven in body and soul, glorified with Jesus for eternity, praise the Lord.
Jesus prophesied His Ascension
In the Sermon of the Bread of Life, Jesus was aware that his disciples were murmuring about the fact that they has to eat His flesh and drink His own blood, and then Jesus said to them: "Does this offend you?. Then how will you react when you see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?" (Jn.6:61-62). To Mary Magdalene Jesus said: "Do not touch me, for I am not ascended o My Father yet, but go to my brethren, and say to them: I am ascending to My Father and to your Father, to My god and to your God" (Jn.20:17). In Eph.4:8-10 and 1Tim.3:16 the Ascension of Jesus is spoken of as an accepted fact.
The God-Man in Heaven
Jesus returns to Heaven, to the same place where he is from eternity, but he returns a little different, as Man-God!, with the same body, blood, soul and divinity he had on earth. He ascends to receive the glory due to Him as a conqueror of sin and death (Phi.2:8-11). To be our Mediator and advocate to the Father (Heb.9:24). To send the Holy Spirit as he promised in the Last Supper (Jn.16:7). To prepare a place for us, as he also promised in the Last supper (Jn.14:2).
Now Jesus is seated at the Father's right hand (Lk.24:19), in the same place and with the same honor and power he had for eternity, for everything was created by Him and for Him, and everything is sustained by Him (Col.1:15-17, Jn.1:1-3)… It means, as he said, "all power has been given to me in heaven and on earth" (Mat.28:18). He always had that power as God, but now he exercises it as man, as King of the Universe, with his Mother beside him as Queen of the Universe, because in all kingdoms the Mother of the King is the Queen Mother.
The Kingdom of Israel
In this last meeting with Jesus on earth, the disciples asked Jesus, "Is it now that you will restore the Kingdom of Israel?" (Act.1:6)… the disciples, as good Jews, were waiting for the restoration of the physical Kingdom of Israel on earth, they still could not understand that the Kingdom Jesus was talking about was much bigger and joyous, it was an eternal spiritual kingdom, not only for the Jews, but for every men and women since the beginning of the world… the Kingdom Jesus founded compared with the Kingdom the disciples were waiting for, is like an ocean compared with a drop of water…
… Here Jesus reserves for himself a clear answer, as he did in respect to the end of times, also in the Mount of Olives in Mat.24:3-4. About the end of times, Jesus answered them with the Sermon of the End of Times, in chapters 24 and 25 of Matthew. Here, he answers them: "It is not for you to know the time and the steps which the Father has fixed by his own authority" (Act.1:7)… but immediately, in the nest verse, he told them very clearly their role and responsibility in this Kingdom: They will receive the power of the Holy Spirit to be His witnesses to the end of the earth… and, certainly, in Pentecost the disciples understood the Kingdom Jesus was talking about, and they started to work on it.
The Promise of Pentecost
Just before the Ascension, Jesus said the last words on earth, "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the earth" (Act.1:8).
This promise was fulfilled three days later at Pentecost… and the disciples were the witnesses of Jesus the Christ to the end of the earth then known, up to Spain, and in 32 years as it is recorded in the Acts of the Apostles.
And the Promise is also for you and for me, you and I have to be witnesses of Jesus with the power of the Spirit to the end of the earth now known… and the Christians are doing that, right now, praise the Lord.
Jesus Ascended in front of His Disciples (Lk.24:50)
The disciples did not see Jesus rise out from the grave, because His Resurrection would be proven by seeing Him alive afterwards, but they saw the Ascension because they could not otherwise have an ocular witness of it. There were more than five hundred brothers and sisters together, most of them alive at the time of St. Paul (1Cor.15:6).
The last Blessing: Just before the Ascension, "Jesus lifted up his hands and bless them" (Lk.24:50). He did not go away in displeasure, but in love, he left a blessing behind him. Jesus loved us to the end (Jn.13:1).
Mount of Olives
"After the Ascension they returned to Jerusalem from the Mount called Olives, which is a fifteen-minute walk away" (Act.1:12).
The place of the Ascension is not distinctly stated, it would appear from the Acts that it was Mount Olivet, which is within a Sabbath's day's journey to Jerusalem. Gethsemani is at the slope of Mount Olivet. However, Luk.24:50 says that "Jesus led them almost as far as Bethany"… but Bethany itself is farther than a Sabbath's day journey, and, of course, Mount Olivet is in the way from Bethany to Jerusalem.
Tradition has consecrated Mount Olivet as the Mount of Ascension and Christian piety has memorialized the event by erecting over the site a basilica. St. Helena built the first memorial, which was destroyed by the Persians in 614, rebuilt in the eighth century, to be destroyed again, and rebuilt a second time by the crusaders. This the Moslems also destroyed, leaving only the small octagonal structure which encloses the stone said to bear the imprint of the feet of Jesus. It belongs now to the Moslems, and it is now used as an oratory. The original Basilica had an open ceiling, to look at the sky, where Jesus was lifted.
Gethsemani is in Mount Olivet, the garden where the sufferings of Jesus begun, and ""Bethany" means "the house of sorrows", so, those who would go to Heaven must ascend thither from the house of sorrow and the garden of sufferings.
The Cloud: "Jesus was taken up before their eyes and a cloud hide him from their side" (Act.1:9). This is the same "cloud" of the Shekinah, the glory of God, so often seen in the Old Testament, and to be seen again when Jesus returns in his glorious Second Coming (Mt.26:64, Rev.1:7).
The Disciples stood gazing up (Act.1:10-11): After the Ascension, the disciples were gazing up to Heaven, and two angels appeared and said to them, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking up to the sky?"… like saying, you have seen all you were called together to see, and why do you look any further? … they were indeed amazed, like in ecstasy…
The Promise of the Second Coming (Act.1:11)
The two angels told them a glorious promise of hope: "This Jesus who has been taken from you to heaven, will return in the same way as you have seen him go there".
Jesus shall return to earth in the same way, with power and in great glory, as a man, coming on the clouds of heaven, like lightning which flashes from east to west, and everyone shall see him, the living and the death, even those who pierced him, I don't know if you and I will be alive or death, but either way we will see him!… he will send the angels to gather his chosen people from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the sky (Mt.24:27, 30-31, Rev.1:7, Lk.17:24, 21:27, Mk.13:27).
The angels didn't say he will come to the Mount of Olives, neither the time of coming… but this Ascension witnessed by the disciples is like a prelude of the Second Coming in which Jesus Christ will be exalted and proclaimed as the Lord of the Universe.
This Second Coming to earth will not be to save anyone, but to judge the living and the death, to bring the faithful to eternal Heaven, and to send the unfaithful to eternal Hell, both with the same body and soul they had on earth (Mt.25:31-46, 1Thes.4:15-18, 1Cor.15:51-55)… do not wait for the Second Coming to be saved, now is the time and the day of salvation! (2Cor.6:2).
And this Second Coming will be very soon for you and for me: The day we die!… That very day we pass into eternity, it is "the end of times" for us, "the end of time and space", because in eternity there is neither time nor space (2Pet.3:8, Ps.90:4).
Jesus is coming now!
And right now Jesus is coming to earth every day, not in splendor nor in vision, but in faith… but as real as the air we breath, or as the Sun at night.
Jesus is like the Sun: He is present always everywhere. Even in your closed basement on a winter day, there is the Sun, otherwise your basement would be frozen like the North Pole. And Jesus comes every time a person believes and gets baptized, because Christ himself is the one who baptizes when anyone baptizes, and the one who comes to dwell into the one baptized. And he is the one who forgives in the Sacrament of Penance, when the priest gives the absolution… here, he is like the Sun in a beautiful spring day. And when two or more meet in the name of Jesus, there Jesus is present like the Sun on a beach in the Caribe at noon in a summer day… and in the Eucharist, in every Holy Mass, Jesus comes, and he is present with his body, blood, soul, and divinity, as if we were right in the center of the Sun… all in faith, but as real as the waves of radio or television that surround us right now…
… We can never see the waves of radio or television, but if we get a radio or a TV set, we can listen and see what those waves transmit… the same happens with God, we need a God-set to listen and see Him, it is called "humility" and "purity", only those who are humbled like St. Joseph or Moses can listen to God, and only the pure of heart like the Blessed Mother can see God (Mt.5:8, 1:20, 2:13, Num.12:3).
The Disciples "full of joy"
"The disciples worshiped him, and they returned to Jerusalem full of joy and were continually in the Temple praising God" (Lk.24:51-52).
The disciples were "full of joy" after the Ascension… today, they fully realize that their friend Jesus, is much more than just a man, he is God.
The gorgeous vision and splendor of Jesus made them forget their lost… rather, they started to glaze what they would understand in full at Pentecost: The meaning of the real spiritual Kingdom of Israel, and that Jesus stayed now inside them… and they were continually in the Temple praising God… and still more, after Pentecost, says Mark: "The Eleven went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs which accompanied them" (Mk.16:20, 16:17-18).
The joy the disciples had after the Ascension and Pentecost was greater and deeper that the one they had in the presence of the real Jesus while alive… a joy that put them to worship continually and to preach everywhere, without any fear, the good news of the Lord… and this joy is for you and for me, only if we believe… because there is more joy and happiness on those who have not seen and yet have come to believe (Jn.20:28).
The triumph of the "Human Body"
Jesus came to earth as God, and returned to Heaven as Man, fully God and fully Man…. Jesus brings to Heaven the flesh redeemed, like the conqueror who keeps the sword of the enemy in victory.
The flesh of a man enters now to a new life and becomes eternity… no other religion had even dreamed of that!… This is the day of the great triumph of the "human values"… your body and mine are destined to live in eternity, with the same body we have now, but gloriously transformed, like the one of the Jesus of the Ascension, praise the Lord (1Cor.15:42-44, 51-55).
The Feast of the Ascension
The Feast of the Ascension is always on a Thursday, 40 days after Resurrection, and is one of the ecumenical feasts ranking with the feasts of the Passion, of Easter, of Pentecost, and of Christmas, among the most solemn in the calendar. It has a vigil, and an octave, which is set apart for a novena of preparation for Pentecost in accordance with the directions of Leo XIII.
The observance of this feast is of great antiquity. St. Augustine says that it is of Apostolic origin. In the liturgies generally the day is meant to celebrate the completion of the work of our salvation, the pledge of our glorification with Jesus, and His entry into Haven with our human nature glorified.
It is celebrated all over the world, and specially at Mount Olivet and Bethany. Certain customs are connected with the liturgy of the day: The blessing of the firsts fruits, because Jesus is the first fruit, a pledge of our glorification (1Cor.15:23). Triumphal processions with candles. Banners bearing a lion, the sign of the triumphant Jesus, and a dragon to symbolize the defeated evil one. In some churches the scene of the Ascension is vividly reproduced by elevating the figure of Jesus above the altar, and even through an opening in the roof of the church. In others, whilst the figure of Jesus is made to ascend, that of the devil is made to descend.
The Ascension, the capstone of the life of Jesus on earth, the pledge of our glorification, and the greatest triumph of the human nature.