Grant, we beseech Thee, almighty God: that we, who believe Thine only-begotten Son, our Redeemer, to have ascended on this day into heaven, may also ourselves dwell in mind amid heavenly things. Through the same Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost . . .
Prayer Source: 1962 Roman Catholic Daily Missal; Collect for Ascension Thursday
Image Source: Ascension by Rembrandt, 1639
Ascension Thursday in the liturgical year marks the 40th day after Easter Sunday and the day we celebrate Our Lord's Glorious Ascension into Heaven. The Ascension has three principal parts: the departure of Jesus from earth, His going up into heaven, and taking His place at the right hand of the Father. To begin, let us again meditate on the Sacred Account of Our Lord’s Ascension:
In the first book, Theophilus, I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught until the day he was taken up, after giving instructions through the holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them by many proofs after he had suffered, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. While meeting with them, he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for "the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak; for John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the holy Spirit."
When they had gathered together they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" He answered them, "It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority. But you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight. While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. They said, "Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven." Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day's journey away.
Acts 1:1-12I am trying to put myself in the disciples place. They had been with Jesus for 3 years, saw Him suffer and die, and then they rejoiced to see Our Risen Lord. Imagine the pain in them when they knew that Our Lord was leaving them - this time they would not see Him until they would die and stand before Him in Judgment. It must have been terribly lonely and painful for them at first, but then as we look at John 14:1-3, we see the reason that Our Lord was to ascend:
Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house there are many mansions. If not, I would have told you: because I go to prepare a place for you. And if I shall go, and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and will take you to myself; that where I am, you also may be.
The Ascension has been called the capstone of the life of Jesus, but Jesus is not gone completely! He has promised to remain with us till the end of the ages, and He does this by the Holy Eucharist. Jesus Christ is in the Holy Eucharist. When Jesus was speaking of the Eucharist, His disciples were murmuring about having to eat His flesh. 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). Jesus is still with us and shall remain with us. He looks out for us and loves us. Jesus is Our God forever and ever!
Let us go forth this day still in the Easter Joy. We are sinners, but, if we are repentant and seek Our Lord in the Sacrament of Confession, then we can be forgiven. Jesus gave us the Sacraments and the Church through His disciples for this day - the day He would ascend bodily into Heaven. How glorious it must have been!
As Our Lord ascended, He rose to sit forever at the right-hand of the Father, since He abides eternally in the Father’s bliss, which is termed as “the right hand.” And, while many of us are familiar with the image of Christ sitting at the right hand of the Father, the Scriptures do in one instance mention Christ standing – not sitting – at the right hand of the Father. This instance is during the stoning of Stephen. Reflecting upon this St. Gregory says in a Homily on the Ascension (Hom. xxix in Evang.), "it is the judge's place to sit, while to stand is the place of the combatant or helper. Consequently, Stephen in his toil of combat saw Him standing whom He had as his helper. But Mark describes Him as seated after the Ascension, because after the glory of His Ascension He will at the end be seen as judge."
As stated in Question 58: Article 4 of the Summa by St. Thomas Aquinas:
Christ is said to sit at the Father's right hand inasmuch as He is on equality with the Father in respect of His Divine Nature, while in respect of His humanity, He excels all creatures in the possession of Divine gifts. But each of these belongs exclusively to Christ. Consequently, it belongs to no one else, angel or man, but to Christ alone, to sit at the right hand of the Father.
Chapel of the Ascension with the footprints of Christ
"Regarding the place from which Christ ascended, Sulpicius, bishop of Jerusalem, says, and the 'Gloss' also says, that when a church was built [on the Mount of Olives] later on, the spot where Christ had stood could never be covered with pavement; and more than that, the marble slabs placed there burst upwards into the faces of those who were laying them. He also says that footmarks in the dust there prove that the Lord had stood on that spot: the footprints are discernible and the ground still retains the depressions his feet had left.
Reflection from Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen:
"In the Ascension the Savior did not lay aside the garment of flesh with which He had been clothed; for His human nature would be the pattern of the future glory of other human natures, which would become incorporated to Him through a sharing of His life. Intrinsic and deep was the relation between His Incarnation and His Ascension. The Incarnation or the assuming of a human nature made it possible for Him to suffer and redeem. The Ascension exalted into glory that same human nature that was humbled to the death." (Archbishop Fulton Sheen, Life of Christ)