The Ascension – “Christ has not gone away but is with us forever” Pope Benedict XVI


Sunday is the feast of the Ascension, a day that reminds us that our home is in heaven, and opens a period of prayer and expectation, waiting for the Holy Spirit and Pentecost.

With this in mind, CTS has produced a new novena leaflet, a tool to help those who wish to pray for the Holy Spirit in this special time, but before celebrating what is called the “Birthday of the Church”, another feast awaits us, one that some find difficult to comprehend.

It would seem that in his ascension, Jesus left the world behind, but this event is a major part of the Catholic faith that we remember every Sunday, as the creed puts it: “He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father” and it needs closer inspection.

I for one, would like a guide through this perhaps puzzling moment in the life of Jesus, in order to understand how it too, is an act of love. Who better to help us, than the Holy Father Pope Benedict, Who, in the epilogue to Jesus of Nazareth Part II, looked at this event from the Acts of the Apostles, but began by focusing on Mary Magdalene’s encounter with the risen Christ:

“She addresses as Rabbuni, meaning Teacher. She wants to touch him, to hold him, but the Lord says to her: ‘Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father’ (Jn 20:17). This surprises us. We would have thought that now, while he is standing before her, she can indeed touch him and hold him. When he has ascended to the Father, this will no longer be possible. But the Lord says the opposite: Now she cannot touch him or hold him. The earlier way of relating to the earthly Jesus is no longer possible.”

Because, as the Holy Father says, what Jesus is now doing is, in one way, an even greater gift than his life was.

“The departing Jesus does not make his way to some distant star. He enters into communion of power and life with the living God, into God’s dominion over space. Hence he has not ‘gone away’, but now and forever by God’s own power he is present with us and for us.

“When Jesus was taken from their [the apostles’] sight by the cloud, this does not mean that he was transported to another cosmic location, but that he was taken up into God’s very being, participating in God’s powerful presence in the world.”

May we too come close to this unity with God through our celebration of his ascension.

Of related interest:

D744 Symbols of the Holy Spirit – his guide helps us to become aware of the benevolent action of the seven-fold Spirit who works with us and lives in us. The aim is to move from symbol to reality – or, as Blessed John Henry Newman put it, ‘From shadows or images, to the Truth’.
SP27 7 Gifts of the Holy Spirit – Every Christian who has been confirmed has received the fullness of the seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit. This booklet explains what these gifts are, the effect they can have on the life of the person who accepts them and what a life truly led by the Spirit should look like.
DO693 Dominum et Vivificantem – Already setting the Church’s sights on the great Jubilee of the year 2000, marking ‘the passage from the second to the third Christian Millennium’, Pope John Paul reflects on the Holy Spirit, as the one who is at the centre of the Christian faith and is the source and dynamic power of the Church’s renewal.

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One comment on “The Ascension – “Christ has not gone away but is with us forever” Pope Benedict XVI

  1. James Findlayson

    June 3, 2011 at 7:28 pm Reply

    The leaflet clearly states: “Nine Days of Prayer from Ascension to Pentecost”

    How can you have a Novena in 7 days as Ascension’s been shifted to tomorrow (Sunday 5th)?

    This just highlights the stupidity of our Bishops’ decision to move the feasts to Sundays so the lazy can fulfil a Holy Day of Obligation by doing nothing apart from going to Mass on Sunday. Or is the thinking that those who don’t come to Mass at all, might at least come on the Sundays that are now on a two-for-one offer?

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