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August 23, 2005

Ch. XXI. Q. 122. The Meaning of the Ascension

THE ascension signifies (a) Christ's withdrawal in the flesh from this world, and His ascension to the heavenly throne;1 (b) an establishment of the conditions under which the Holy Spirit brings Christ to us and enables us to participate in His grace;2 (c) our Lord's entrance into the heavenly Holy Place, and the initiation of His heavenly priesthood.3

2. The ascension was delayed for forty days4 in order that Christ might convince His disciples that He had risen; that He might in some degree exhibit to them the spiritual exaltation of the body which His faithful ones are some day to enjoy; and that He might complete the initial organization of His Church, and commission its first ministers.5 Their being endued with power from on high was postponed until the Holy Spirit should come.6

3. Our Lord's physical movement into the sky, and permanent disappearance on high, constitutes an article of faith, because it was the manner, historically speaking, in which He withdrew, and signified His withdrawal, to heaven. Ignorant as we are of the locality of heaven, we know that it is not merely a state. It is somewhere; for, as touching the risen flesh, Jesus Christ must be somewhere, and where He is in that flesh, there is heaven and paradise.7

4. In heaven that glorified body has become the veil through which we creatures gain access to God,8 the place of propitiation where Christ appears for us9 and the centre around which all nations gather in worship.10 Although it is physically present in one place only, and not in any manner omnipresent in se, the very withdrawal of its physical presence from the world has made possible, through the operation of the Holy Spirit, its mystical presence in all the Church, and its sacramental presence on every altar—a presence far more effectual and beneficial to us than any merely physical presence could be.11

5. By His ascension Christ entered the true Holy Place and began His everlasting priesthood,12 the functions of which are summarized in the term "intercession."13 (a) Appearing for us,14 He offers His living Manhood, which has been perfected by suffering,15 and which is acceptable to the Father because indelibly marked by the meritorious death of the Cross;16 (b) In this Manhood he also offers those who have been incorporated into it by Baptism and who unite in earthly Eucharists with His heavenly oblation;17 (c) In the same Manhood, through the agency of His ministers, He sacramentally imparts to His earthly members the benefits of saving and sanctifying grace; and also completes the sanctification of the faithful departed.18

1 St. Luke xxiv. 51; Acts i. 9; Heb. xii. 2.

2 W. Milligan, Ascension, pp. 40-46.

3 Heb. ix. 12, 15. W. Milligan, esp. Lec. i.; St. Thomas, III. Ivii.-lviii.; H.P. Liddon, Some Words of Christ, xxii.; P.G. Medd, One Mediator, §163; A.P. Forbes, Nicene Creed, pp. 236-238; Bp. Pearson, Creed, art. vi.

4 On the forty days, Geo. Moberly, Great Forty Days; P.G. Medd, Lec. vii.; St. Thomas, III. Iv.

5 St. Matt. xxviii. 18; St. John xx. 22-23.

6 St. Luke xxiv. 49. See P.G. Medd, §§ 157-162; H.P. Liddon, Easter in St. Paul's, xxxiv; Chas. Gore, Church and the Ministry, ch. iv.; D. Stone, Christ. Church, ch. xl.

7 Cf. Q. 120.6, above, and refs. there given.

8 Heb. x. 19-20.

9 1 St. John ii. 2, Heb. ix. 24; Revel, v. 6.

10 Revel. v. 6-14.

11 St. John xiv. 16-17, 22-23; xv. 1-6; xvi. 22; St. Matt. xxviii. 20. St. Thomas, III. Iviii.; H.P. Liddon, Univ. Sermons, 1st Series, pp. 221-233; Archd. Wilberforce, Incarnation, ch. x.; A.J. Mason, Faith of the Gospel, ch. vii. 3.

12 Heb. v. 6-10; vii. 15-27; ix. 11-12, 24-28. H.P. Liddon, Some Works of Christ, pp. 337-341; W. Milligan, Lecs. ii.-vi.; M.F. Sadler, One Offering, chh. vii.-ix.; Geo. Milligan, Theol. of the Ep. to the Heb., chh. vi-vii.

13 Heb. vii. 25. W. Milligan, pp. 149-161.

14 Heb. ix. 24.

15 Heb. v. 6-10.

16 Revel. v. 6; xiii. 8; W. Milligan, pp. 127-142.

17 Heb. x. 10-22. P.G. Medd, §§ 179-180 and note xiv.; H.N. Oxenham, Cath. Doctr. of the Atonement, pp. 379 et seq.; W. Milligan, pp. 153-156, 204-268, 307-313.

18 H.P. Liddon, Some Words of Christ, pp. 337-341; P.G. Medd, §§ l83-187.

Posted by AKMA at August 23, 2005 12:09 PM