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Ascension day

Today our Lord Jesus Christ ascended into heaven; let our hearts ascend with him. Listen to the words of the Apostle: “If you have risen with Christ, set your hearts on the things that are above where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God; seek the things that are above, not the things that are on earth.” For just as he remained with us even after his ascension, so we too are already in heaven with him, even though what is promised us has not yet been fulfilled in our bodies.

…We cannot be in heaven, as he is on earth, by divinity, but in him, we can be there by love.

-Augustine
Sermon for the Lord’s Ascension

So, as the hymn says, the ‘cloud from sight received him’, now the forty days were completed. We should heed the words of the Angel – we should not stand here looking upwards – he is everywhere, and with us ever more. In one of his sermons on the Ascension, Pope St Leo the Great wrote:

Christ’s Ascension is therefore also our own, upon the glory of the Head rests the hope of the body. On this holy day, we have received not only the assurance of entering into possession of eternal glory, but we have already entered into the heights of heaven with Christ Jesus.

That is something to remind ourselves on this, the feast of the Ascension.

For reasons best known to themselves, our bishops have decided that man, even the God-Man, were made for the Sabbath, and insisted on moving the feast to the nearest Sunday. This is a sad concession to the secular world, but then the pass there was long sold – we now have a Saturday evening Mass so that those who don’t want to get up early on Sunday can fulfil their ‘obligation’. It all marks a move towards an accommodation with a world which is not actually interested in accommodation. It is part of a wider incomprehension by so many Christian leaders.

Since the 1960s the dominant theme in the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches has been one of making ourselves ‘relevant’ and ‘accessible’ But the faith had managed to be both those things for the best part of two thousand years, because it, and it alone through Christ, can heal what ails us. If we think nothing ails us and we do not need healing, then the faith is not accessible or relevant. If we think of Christ as the cure for what ails us, then it is. It sometimes feels as though, with Christ out of sight now the cloud has received him, that we have forgotten that this world is not all there is, and that he has simply gone before us to where we are going.

As we reflect, this Ascension day, let us bear in mind the words of the Angels:

“Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!”

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