The Ascension

A meditation with Saint Thomas Aquinas O.P.

Christ’s Ascension is the cause of our salvation

”It is expedient to you that I go; for if I do not go, the Paraclete will not come unto you.

But if I go, I will send Him unto you” (John 16, 7).

Christ’s Ascension is the cause of our salvation in two ways. First of all, on our part ; secondly, on His.

1. On our part, in so far as by the Ascension our souls are uplifted to Him ;

for His Ascension fosters, first, faith ; secondly, hope ; thirdly, charity.  Fourthly, our reverence for Him is thereby increased, since we no longer consider Him an earthly man, but the God of Heaven.

Thus the Apostle says : «  If we have known the Christ according to the flesh », that is a mortal, whereby we reputed Him as a mere man, « but now we know Him so no longer » (2 Co 5, 16).

2. On His part, in regard to those things which, in ascending He did for our salvation:

— First, He prepared the way for our ascent into Heaven, according to His own words : « I go to prepare a place for you » (John 14, 2), and the words of Micheas the prophet (2, 13) : « He shall go up that shall open the way before them ».

For since He is our Head, the members must follow whithersoever the Head has gone. Hence, He said : « That where I am, you also may be » (Jn 14, 13). In sign thereof, He took to Heaven the souls of the saints delivered from limbo, according to Psalm 67, 19 and Eph 4, 8 : « Ascending on high, He led captivity, captive », because He took with Him to Heaven, those who had been held captive by the devil, to Heaven, a place foreign to human nature ; captives indeed of a happy taking, since they were won by His victory.

— Secondly, because as the high-priest under the Old Testament entered the holy place to stand before God for the people, so also Christ entered Heaven « to make intercession for us », as is said in Hebr 7, 25. Because the very appearance of Himself in the human nature which He took with Him to Heaven is a pleading for us ; so that for the very reason that God so exalted human nature in Christ, He may take pity on them for whom the Son of God took human nature.

— Thirdly, that being established in His heavenly throne as God and Lord, He might send down gifts upon men, according to Eph 4, 10 : « He ascended above all the heavens, that he might fill all things », that is, fill all things with His gifts.

* Christ’s Passion is the cause of our ascending to Heaven, properly speaking, by removing the hindrance which is sin, and also by way of merit ;

* whereas Christ’s Ascension is the direct cause of our ascension, as by beginning it in Him Who is our Head, with Whom the members must be united.

Christ by once ascending into Heaven acquired for Himself and for us in perpetuity the right and worthiness of a heavenly home ; which worthiness suffers in no wise, if, from special dispensation, He sometimes come down in body to earth ; either in order to show Himself to the whole world, as at the judgment ; or else, to show Himself particularly to some individual ; for example in saint Paul’s case, as we read in the Acts, chapter 9.

And lest any man may think that Christ was not bodily present when this occurred, the contrary is proven from what the Apostle says in 1 Cor 15, 8 to confirm faith in the Resurrection : « Last of all He was seen by me, as by one born out of due time », which vision would not confirm the truth of the Resurrection except he had beheld Christ’s very body.

[From the book of Fr E. C. McENIRY O.P., Saint Thomas Aquinas Meditations for every day,  Columbus (Ohio), Long’s College Book Company, 1951, p. 255-256.]