“I am with you always, until the end of the age”
Sometimes, as Christians, we can feel alone, and it may seem – although it is certainly not the case in reality – that the Lord is far from us (or that we are far from Him). And so the feast of the Ascension of Our Lord into Heaven is a sign of great hope for us.
The Ascension is the end of one part of the history of salvation, the earthly life of the Lord, and the beginning of the next part part – the foundation and ministry of the Church, taking the joy of the Gospel out across the world “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). This is the part of salvation history we are still living in, and which will end only when the Lord comes again in glory.
The reason why the Ascension is a sign of both hope and the nearness of the Lord is because of His promise in the the Gospel of St Mark that He will remain with us always. He remains with us, even now – in the community of the Church, where He is present; in the Sacraments of the Church; and above all, in His real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament, instituted before His Passion. As Christians, we know that He has gone to prepare a place for us in the Kingdom of the Father; but we also know that until then, He sends His Spirit. This Spirit consoles, comforts and sanctifies us so that one day, God willing, we might be found worthy to enter the Kingdom.
I often wonder how the Apostles must have felt at the moment of the Ascension; the Gospel of Saint Luke gives us the answer – “They did Him homage and then returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and they were continually in the temple praising God” (Luke 24:52-53). Perhaps, then, this is our key to how we should conduct ourselves as we – like the Apostles before us – await His coming again.
Image: ‘Christi Himmelfahrt’ by Gebhard Fugel, c. 1893
‘Almighty God, fill us with holy joy,
teach us how to thank You with reverence and love
on account of the Ascension of Christ Your Son.
You have raised us up with Him:
where He, the Head, has preceded us in glory,
there we, the body, are called in hope.
We make our prayer through Christ our Lord. Amen.’
(Concluding Prayer – Evening Prayer I of the Ascension)