That our flesh should be seated in the heavens and be worthy of worship by the Angels, Archangels, Seraphim and Cherubim is truly a great, astonishing and marvelous thing. On contemplating that, I am often struck with amazement, and I entertain exalted thoughts about mankind, for I see God’s great and abundant care for our existence. - St. John Chrysostom
While he blessed them, he parted from them, and was carried up into heaven.
We modern folks have been told so many times that to say that God is ‘up there’ or that heaven is ‘up there’ is to think in terms of an outdated primitive cosmology that the Ascension of Jesus ends up being something of an embarrassment. God and heaven after all are beyond space and time, no up or down. Maybe so. But in a remarkable little book Sacred Signs Romano Guardini pointed out how hard it is for us to keep from talking about up and down.
“Every one of the innumerable times we go upstairs a change, though too slight and subtle to be perceptible, takes place in us. There is something mysterious in the act of ascending. Our intelligence would be puzzled to explain it, but instinctively we feel that it is so. We are made that way.
When the feet mount the steps, the whole man, including his spiritual substance, goes up with them. All ascension, all going up, if we will but give it thought, is motion in the direction of that high place where everything is great, everything made perfect.
For this sense we have that heaven is "up" rather than "down" we depend on something in us deeper than our reasoning powers. How can God be up or down? The only approach to God is by becoming better morally, and what has spiritual improvement to do with a material action like going up a pair of stairs? What has pure being to do with a rise in the position of our bodies? There is no explanation. Yet the natural figure of speech for what is morally bad is baseness, and a good and noble action we call a high action. In our minds we make a connection, unintelligible but real, between rising up and the spiritual approach to God; and Him we call the All-Highest.” Or a higher power.
We talk about being ‘down’ or ‘up’ to describe our moods. Or describe people as being ‘upright’ or ‘low life’‘high minded’ or ‘base’ . Maybe even ‘high church’ or ‘low church’.
One feature of this church building that we are likely to take for granted is that the steps leading up to the altar. The priest has to go up to the altar and what he says before he goes up is this: ‘send out thy light and thy truth that they may lead me unto thy holy hill and thy dwelling’. So every time the priest makes his way up those steps we are to think of all those other treks up holy hills and mountains: Moses on Mt. Sinai, Elijah on the mountain and the Lord on the mount of the Transfiguration. “The altar is the threshold of eternity”.
Priesthood is the very heart of the mystery of the Ascension: as St. Thomas puts it ‘the presence of the human nature [of Jesus] in heaven is itself an intercession for us, for God who exalted the human nature in Christ will also show mercy towards those for whose sake this nature was assumed.” Because Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father – even if there is no right or left – we sit there too in the human nature which he has taken.
St. John Chrysostom insists ‘that our flesh should be seated in the heavens and be worthy of worship by the Angels, Archangels, Seraphim and Cherubim is truly a great, astonishing and marvelous thing. On contemplating that, I am often struck with amazement, and I entertain exalted thoughts about mankind, for I see God’s great and abundant care for our existence.’
Every proper church has steps so that ‘with our minds on what we are doing, we really do leave below the base and trivial, and are in actual fact ascending up on high. Words are not very adequate; but the Christian knows that when he ascends it is the Lord that ascends. In him the Lord repeats his own ascension. ‘Thither we might also ascend and reign with him in glory’.
While he blessed them, he parted from them, and was carried up into heaven.Comments are moderated and require word verification