Ascension- Pentecost: Ascending - Descending

May 7, 2024

The Son ascends to the Father.
The Holy Spirit descends on the Church of believers.

He ascended to the Father...

“The Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.”

Christ, after having manifested his glorious presence to his apostles for 40 days, ascended into heaven and disappeared from their sight forever. So terrible that the orphaned apostles cannot take their eyes off Heaven. “Galileans, why are you standing there looking up to heaven?" Ever since dawn on the day of the Resurrection, the angels have been trying to awaken the Lord's friends!

Jesus clearly shows them that Heaven is open to Him, and therefore open to THEM. Yes, hope is great on this Ascension Day: “wherever the body is, eagles will gather” (Mt 24:28).

So he ascended, ascended, for he is to ascend very high to the right hand of the Father. He disappeared into the cloud, just as the departure of the prophet Elijah in his chariot of fire had foreshadowed. Fire and cloud: the Holy Spirit carries Elijah and Jesus into the bosom of the Father.

But why didn't Christ stay with us on earth forever? It was fitting, it had to be, says St. Thomas Aquinas... (Q57, article 1, solution 3) because this “ascension of Christ, which deprived us of his bodily presence, was more useful to us than that presence itself would have been, for the following reasons” (Q57, article 1, solution 3).

1° It increases our faith, which has as its object what we do not see (...) “Blessed are those who do not see and yet believe”. (...)

2° It uplifts our hope. The Lord declares (Jn 14:3): “When I have gone away and prepared a place for you, I will come back and take you with me, so that where I am, there you may be also”. And Christ, by taking to heaven the human nature he had assumed, gave us hope of getting there, for “wherever the body is, eagles will gather” (Mt 24:28). And Micah (2, 13) had prophesied “He goes up, clearing the way before them.”

3° It directs the affection of our charity towards heavenly realities: “Seek the things above, where Christ dwells seated at the right hand of God; set your affection on the things above, not on the things of the earth” (Col 3:1). For, according to S. Matthew, “where your treasure is, there your heart is also”. (...)

... to descend from the Father and the Son.

Although the Son who proceeds from the Father had come down to live among men through his Incarnation, “But no one has ascended into Heaven except the One who came down from Heaven, the Son of Man” (Jn 3: 13), it is interesting to see that the Holy Spirit, from the Lord's Baptism to Pentecost, is also the One who comes down. In the form of a dove, in the form of tongues of fire. But is this a descent of the Incarnation? Is it a mission similar to that of the Incarnate Word? No. He is sent to descend into our souls: “It is good for you that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go away, I will send him to you”. (Jn 16:7) “And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever.” (Jn14). So, while descending is a movement common to the second and third persons of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit does not ascend, for he has no body... The Ascension celebrates the entry of Christ's body into eternal glory, the first fruits of the resurrection of bodies and of our assumptions.

So we have the consolation that if Jesus has ascended, the Paraclete has descended into us, and we taste this new divine presence, this inhabitation of the Trinity within us.

A happy separation that has brought us such a sweet Comforter, the Soul of our soul!

In this time of the Cenacle, let us not stay a minute longer to miss the sensitive presence of Christ, but ardently desire that the Fire of the Holy Spirit, gentle guest of the soul, descend upon us and remain there forever. For if he wishes to descend into the depths of our souls... it is to make us, in turn, ascend to the Father.

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