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
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,
By reward we here mean that Jesus as
man, merited heaven as a reward for His perfect obedience to the Fathers 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 Christs 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 Fathers will.
From conception in His Mothers 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.
- 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 Gods grace, the greater merit that person
gains for every least morally good action performed.
- 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 ones 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
- 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