This week we reach the Ascension: on Thursday if you are in Scotland, on Sunday everywhere else. On page 183 of your May MAGNIFICAT you will find a Mass introduction quoting Benedict XVI: “The meaning of Christ’s Ascension expresses our belief that in Christ the humanity that we we all share has entered into the inner life of God in a new and hitherto unheard of way. It means that man has found an everlasting place in God.”
With his customary lucidity, the Pope Emeritus sums up the meaning of what can seem, if not closely examined, a bit of an abstract feast. Hans Urs von Balthasar, who was a friend of the former pope and part of the same theological circle, in the meditation chosen for this feast, deepens the existential paradox of the Ascension for us. “This had been the Creator’s intention from the beginning: that the creature should feel totally at home within itself only when it is in God; than man should be wholly free only when he abides in the eternal Freedom.”
Perhaps we can see the Ascension as a ratcheting up of the Easter drama. For a while, having thought they had lost Jesus completely, the disciples have the joy of meeting him again, a flesh and blood person, albeit with the characteristics of the resurrected body. Yet it is easy to forget that Christian joy has a purpose: just as God descended amongst us as a human being, so we, drawn by his love, can ascend to a life which contains so much more than we can conceive. This is why the fervent prayer of Christ, which is given in the Gospel for the seventh Sunday of Easter, is so moving: “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world, and for their sake I consecrate myself so that they too may be consecrated in the truth.”
A marvellous reading for the Year of Consecrated Life!
Leonie Caldecott is the editor of MAGNIFICAT UK and Ireland
MAGNIFICAT is an easy-to-read pocket-sized worship aid, of more than 400 pages. It can be used to follow the daily Mass and can also be read at home for personal or family prayer. To take up one of our MAGNIFICAT subscription offers, go here.