I’m quite busy this week on account of final exams and term papers, but I wanted to give a short reflection on the Ascension of our Lord. Here are four ways by which the Ascension benefits our spiritual life, according to St. Thomas Aquinas.
First, the Ascension benefits our faith. Faith is of things unseen and by Ascending into Heaven we now know Christ by trusting in God’s revelation, made known through Scripture and Tradition. Jesus says, “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” Faith doesn't demean the human person because faith and reason are compatible. It is reasonable to trust what God says because one who does not lie has said it. By trusting in God’s testimony, we free ourselves from limited human understandings of the world, and open ourselves up to a divine perspective. Jesus' Ascension opens us up to that divine perspective.
Second, the Ascension benefits our hope because Jesus ascends into Heaven to prepare a place for us. St. John places on the lips of Jesus, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be” (Jn 14:3). St. Thomas argues that because the human nature of Jesus has been brought up into Heaven, we can have hope that our own bodies will be brought to Heaven. Our human nature is compatible with Heaven because with Christ, we will be exalted at the right hand of the Father.
Third, St. Thomas says that the Ascension “directs the fervor of our charity to Heavenly things” (ST III q57 a1). He quotes Colossians 3:1-2, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.” The Ascension of Jesus instructs us to direct all our love towards spending our eternity with God. In Heaven we will see God face to face. We will see all His glory and beauty not through creatures but as He possesses it in Himself. This is what made suffering on the Cross worthwhile for Jesus, it open our way into Heaven so that He might give His entire self to us. It is for the sake of the vision of God that we should do all that we do.
Finally, because of the Ascension, Christ intercedes for us at the right hand of the Father and sends the Holy Spirit to us. It is the Spirit who is the cause of our faith by reminding us of all that Jesus has taught us. The Spirit is also the basis of our hope because it is a pledge of future glory. As St. Thomas says, “The Holy Spirit is love drawing us up to Heavenly things” (ST III q57 a1). The Spirit of Love becomes a source of love for us. Because of the Ascension “we have confidence of entrance into the sanctuary by the new and living way He opened for us through the veil, that is, his flesh” (Heb 10:19-20).