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  • Writer's pictureDr. Anthony Lilles

Ascension and Abiding Presence

The Risen Lord ascended from our midst and remains more present to us that we are to ourselves. He went to offer the Father worship that is right and just. His holy humanity, no longer bound by this world below, is raised above itself in excellence and blessing. Having already conquered death, material extension and duration no longer circumscribe his manhood. He is fully present even as He is taken from our sight. He at once abides with us until the end of time and goes before us, to prepare a place for us. That place is as no place in this world. It is where we do not know what we shall be, where we will be like Him, for it is where we shall see Him as He is.

He has opened to humanity a new horizon. He sets before us yet to be explored and forever unfathomable frontiers. What He sees stirs us with desires that haunt our hearts. He sees glory, the glory that was His from before time began. And the Father who gave Him this glory has given us to Him as well. As He treasures all that the Father gives us, so He treasures and cares for us, wanting us to share in His glory with Him.

He is above us now and raises us with Him to the life we are meant to share. Circumstance has no hold on Him but He is Lord over every exigency. He has left what is outside humanity's deepest center and entered the heavenly sanctuary, the temple not made by human hands. There He establishes the ultimate reference point for all created existence, the measuring point for how we live and move and have our being. For we are meant to worship God and in Him, we finally realize our great purpose - yet this worship is above what we can see, and so He needed to go where only our faith can take us.

He was taken from our sight because this dying world is too small for the greatness of the praise that mankind is meant to offer. Politics and public policy, the work-a-day world, hegemonies of science and technology, and the enchantments of all earthly dreams are overshadowed by His Mystery raised on high. All this will pass away before His face, but He who is over all is the same yesterday, today and forever. Prisons of fear and alienation below are flung open by His Mercy above. Below no one is every alone because He was raised to light, to life, to love - the only space where one can fully be a man. His humanity is taken up into unseen glory and in that, his full manhood raises up perfect praise in every heart that will call to Him. In this praise of glory, the perfect unity of God and man in his very person reverberates with such harmonies as make all things new.

How can He lead us to be where He is so that we at last might fulfill the purpose for which we were made? He who is fully God and fully man was raised far above anything our natural powers can penetrate or grasp, so high that our human powers must be prostrate in surrender, must let go, accept and be ready in reverence and awe. Sanctified humanity is completely directed to a new kind of worship for it is finally and completely vulnerable before God. To welcome the unveiled Holy Trinity and to accept this uncreated love evokes the deepest going forth from self, a sacrificial gift that realizes at once perfect self-possession. Every act of worship now prepares us for that sacred aching jubilation ready to bust open with unceasing fullnesses of meaning and love.

The ascension of Christ in his abiding presence that is always at work roots humanity into a mystery this world cannot hold. We belong not to the profane, to what is outside the temple, but to the all holy, to the most sacred - every holy place is a reminder of this secret. All our life, every banal and mundane moment, must be oriented to what is above or else what we do in the world is at risk. We can live this way by faith because the Word made flesh is raised above all time. This means every moment is subject to His humanity and therefore is directed to a fullness that it cannot contain. Because the Man born of Woman has gone above all space, He is the orientation point for every place and establishes the whole cosmos into a new astonishing order. Our lives are meant to witness to this new creation. He has opened for all humanity a pathway into the depths of the heart of the Father and so we journey as pilgrims in this world to the home that has been prepared for us. He longs that where He is, we too might also be so that we might see the glory that the Father has given Him from before the foundation of the world.

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