“…He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.”
When we recite this line in the Creed at Mass, it may simply seem like a tidy but not especially important bookend to the more important doctrines of the Trinity, Incarnation, and Resurrection.
When the Feast of the Ascension rolls around, we may be tempted to think the Ascension is a “second-tier” event. If so, we are out of step with the New Testament writers and some of the Church’s greatest theologians.
Saint Luke thought the Ascension was so important that the event served not only as the fitting climax to Jesus’ victory over sin and death in his Gospel, but is retold again at the beginning of the Church’s story in Acts (Luke 24; Acts 1).
In an ancient homily on this Feast, St. Augustine pointedly said, “[The Feast of the Ascension] is that feast which confirms the grace of all the feasts together, without which the profitableness of every feast would have perished. For unless the Savior had ascended into heaven, his Nativity would have come to nothing…and his Passion would have borne no fruit for us, and his most holy Resurrection would have been useless.” Let’s look at four reasons why the Ascension is so important to us:
- The Ascension gives us access to our Heavenly Father’s house and our eternal happiness. “Only Christ can open to man such access that we, his members, might have confidence that we too shall go where he, our Head and our Source, has preceded us” (Catechism, No. 661; John 14:2)
- As it did for his first disciples, the Ascension is intended to produce joy and worshipful obedience in the lives of Christ’s disciples. Since Christ is reigning at the right hand of his Father over his Kingdom, we joyfully work to spread that reign within us and around us (Catechism, No. 669, Luke 24:52-53).
- The Ascension means that Christ and His Father could now send the Holy Spirit to fully reveal the Trinity, to guide the Church into all truth, and to unite us to Christ’s mission, “if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7, 13; Catechism, No. 690, 737).
- Finally, the Ascension is a source of daily hope because it reminds us that Jesus is coming back again, the same way he departed, “This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11b). His return will mean the final triumph of good over evil, a new heaven and and a new earth. “That is why Christians pray, above all in the Eucharist, to hasten Christ’s return by saying to him: Marana tha! “Our Lord, come!” (1 Cor.16:22; Rev. 22:17, 20).
Stained glass by François Denis, sourced from Wikicommons