The ascension of Jesus into heaven is an endlessly fascinating facet of the gospel for me. It has gone from an odd curiosity to a core theological truth that fuels my imagination of what daily Christian faithfulness looks like.
In fact, some of my recent musings on quantum entanglement and union with God are brought to you by the doctrine of the ascension!
Here are a couple quotes that get to the heart of the ascension and help us see why it’s so important:
Just as [Jesus] remained with us even after his ascension, so we too are already in heaven with him… 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… While in heaven he is also with us, and we while on earth are with him.Augustine, Sermon for the Lord’s Ascension (430 AD)
[Jesus] had not left his Father when he came down to earth, nor had he abandoned his disciples when he ascended to heaven… once he had entered into the Father’s glory, he now began to be indescribably more present in divinity to those from whom he was further removed in humanity.Leo the Great, Sermon 2 on the Ascension (461 AD)
I think it’s the both/and of presence-in-absence that is such rich soil for contemplation. It’s both “Christ has entered, not into a sanctuary made with hands, a copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf” (Heb 9:24) and “Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age” (Matt 28:20).
These themes are echoed in the Collect for Ascension Day, from the Book of Common Prayer:
Almighty God, whose blessed Son our Savior Jesus Christ ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things: Mercifully give us faith to perceive that, according to his promise, he abides with his Church on earth, even to the end of the ages; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
Happy Ascension Day!