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Lesson Seven
The Ascension of Christ

Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

Unlike the preceding article of the Creed, the Ascension of Christ not only was a fact of provable history, it is a fact of continuing heavenly reality.

The Risen Savior ascended into heaven, but immediately, He was seated at the right hand of His eternal Father where He is now present among the angels and saints in glory.


What the catechist should stress in teaching the sixth article of the Creed is the historical fact that Jesus is now in heaven, body and soul.

What needs to be emphasized is that the Ascension, no less than the Resurrection, was not something merely symbolic. Less still was it something which the disciples imagined.

The Ascension took place at a given point of time in history, at a given place in geography.





There are especially three truths of faith that should be brought home to those we catechize on this article of the Apostles’ Creed. They are,

  • Reward

  • Superiority

  • Authority

By reward we here mean that Jesus as man, merited heaven as a reward for His perfect obedience to the Father’s will.

Merit is the reward that a person deserves from God for having freely cooperated with the grace of God. Christ had a free human will. He used this will to respond generously to the will of God the Father. We get some idea of the sufferings this involved from Christ’s Agony in the Garden of Olives. His spontaneous human feelings and emotions recoiled at the prospect of the Passion. But His deliberate human will was never for an instant out of perfect conformity to the Father’s will.

From conception in His Mother’s womb to the moment He breathed forth His soul in death on Calvary, Jesus constantly and completely surrendered His human will in sacrifice to the will of the Father. For this He was rewarded. And His reward began on Easter Sunday, but reached its perfect fulfillment with His Ascension into heaven.

By superiority we mean all that the simple word “Ascension” implies. By His Ascension into heaven, Jesus attained a superiority over all creation that is expressed in the now familiar title of “Christ the King.”

He is even now superior to all created rational beings. He is King of archangels and angels. He is King of the saints in heaven. He is King of the souls in purgatory. He is the King of all human beings on earth. He is mysteriously King of those in eternal suffering.

It is also because of His superiority that Jesus in heaven is our most powerful advocate before the throne of God. His priestly mission which He began on earth, is continued in heaven. This is what the New Testament means when it speaks of Christ our eternal priest, who is always making intercession for us. He intercedes for us, as man, and His intercession is so powerful because the man who is pleading for us is also God.

By authority we mean what He meant when He said that all authority has been given to Him, again even as man, in heaven and on earth. Concretely this means that Jesus is the supreme Lawgiver for all human beings, and our Supreme Judge.


On the practical level the catechist should explain how our faith in ‘the Risen Christ’ should be implemented.

  1. We believe that Jesus was rewarded for all the good things He had done during His mortal stay on earth. The reward He merited was so great because His holiness was so sublime. What should this mean to us? It should inspire us with great zeal to grow in sanctity. Why? Because the holier a person is in the possession of God’s grace, the greater merit that person gains for every least morally good action performed.

  2. We believe that the Risen Jesus is not only superior to all the angels and saints, but He is adorable because His human nature is united with the Second Person of the Trinity in one Divine Person.

    That is why we adore the Sacred Heart of Jesus. That is why we genuflect before the Holy Eucharist. That is why we say before each Station of the Cross, “We adore you, O Christ, and we bless, you, because by your Cross you have redeemed the world.”

    Whatever else the catechist should instruct pupils to do, they must be taught and trained to honor Jesus, as God-made-man.

    The practice of bowing one’s head when pronouncing the name of Jesus is highly to be praised. It is at once an act of faith and a powerful prayer that, as we know from the Acts of the Apostles, is able to work miracles.

  3. We believe that the Risen Lord has authority to teach, to govern, and to sanctify. This is more than saying that He is in popular sense, authorized. It literally means that He is the author of all the wisdom that we need to learn; of all the moral power to command, to reward and punish; and of all the graces by which everyone is finally sanctified.

    It is impossible to overstress the difference this will make to a follower of Christ-who sees in Him the one in whom everything else in time and eternity depends.

Christ is risen. He is alive. He is in heaven at the right hand of the Father. He is on earth in the Eucharist. He worked miracles through His mortal human nature in Palestine. He works miracles now through His glorified humanity now. It all depends on our faith.

Copyright © 1998 Institute on Religious Life

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