A Blessed Ascension Print
Written by Michael Fones   
Sunday, 20 May 2007 06:24

Cyril of Alexandria wrote regarding the Ascension of Our Lord, "As man then, Jesus appeared before the Father on our behalf, to enable us whom original sin had excluded from his presence once more to see the Father's face. As the Son he took his seat to enable us as sons and daughters through him to be called children of God. So Paul, who claims to speak for Christ, teaching that the whole human race has a share in the events of Christ's life, says that God has raised us up with him and enthroned us with him in heaven. To Christ as the Son by nature belongs the prerogative of sitting at the Father's side; this honor can rightly and truly be ascribed to him alone. Yet because his having become man means that he sits there as one who is in all respects like ourselves, as well as being as we believe God from God, in some mysterious way he passes this honor on to us."

I am a very privileged human being. I live a middle-class or better life. Moreover, I never worry about going hungry, being homeless or even unemployed. I have opportunities of which most people in this world never dream. So when problems arise in my life, or injury, either physical or emotional, or when someone I care about suffers, it's important for me to remember St. Paul's insight, "that the whole human race has a share in the events of Christ's life." That includes His suffering and death.

Human life is a repeating pattern: attachment, separation, loss, and recovery. It's a continual sharing in Christ's Paschal Mystery of life, death, resurrection and ascension. It begins for each of us as it began for Jesus: physical attachment to our mothers in the womb; birth, which is a death of the only existence we'd known to that point - a separation and loss that must happen if we are to continue to grow. Then begins our recovery. We enter into a new relationship not only with our mother, but with our father, our family, and a whole life of people who will become part of this new pattern we've joined. While Our Father knew us when we were being "fashioned in secret in our mother's womb" (Ps 139), we did not know Him. That begins with our baptism, and through the love we receive from those around us, and the grace the Father offers us as we grow in faith.

If we are to grow in Christ, this pattern must become conscious for each of us, as well as whole-heartedly embraced. For Jesus says, "Whoever wishes to be my follower must deny his very self, take up his cross each day, and follow in my steps. Whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will save it." (Lk 9 :23-24) This takes daily acts of faith. We must trust that as we experience the loss of that to which we've grown attached, there is a recovery of something greater; and that "something greater" is a deeper union with Jesus, our Exemplar and Savior. In fact, we must choose these separations and losses, and not simply passively accept those that will inevitably come our way; choose them, and pursue only one attachment and consider all else as loss.

This is the Way we are to take, the path we must follow, in grace, if we would share in Jesus' resurrection, and join Him at His Father's - and Our Father's - side, in our true home.

This is so hard for me to write, because I am aware of some strong attachments I have, mostly to people. I can only imagine how someone with children might feel. But to become "unattached" to those we love doesn't mean we stop loving them. It means, among other things, we no longer try to possess them. We do not cling to them, try to keep them as they are, as Mary Magdalene may have tried to do with Jesus. (Jn 20:17) We do not try to mold them according to our image, but point them to Jesus, who would mold them into His image, whose love for them is far greater than our own, and who calls them from our side to His.