On the feast of the Ascension, we might be left looking up toward Jesus, thinking of him moving up through the clouds, and wondering why he left us behind here on earth. What are we celebrating on the Ascension at all?
The Ascension actually completes the work of the Resurrection, fully glorifying Jesus as he takes his place at the right hand of the Father as the true Lord of all creation. This happened forty days after Easter Sunday, falling on a Thursday, although it is often moved to the Sunday following to make it easier for Catholics to celebrate it. It is as Lord and king that Jesus sends his Holy Spirit to his disciples nine days later (the first novena), so that that they can spread his kingdom throughout the world.
Rather than leaving us behind, Jesus has opened heaven for us. He told us that he was going to prepare a place for us in the Father’s house (John 14:2) and the Ascension opens the gates of heaven to receive us. This feast is not just commemorating one moment in Jesus’s life, because it celebrates our own salvation. We are meant to follow Jesus’s path, sharing in his death and resurrection so that we can also reign with him forever with the Father (2 Timothy 2:12).
The Ascension calls us to be kings with Jesus. He has not left us behind. He is closer to us than ever, giving us his own divine Spirit to dwell in us, making us members of his own body and his Temple in the world. He sanctifies the world through us, making his reign present on earth right now through us. He is an active king, not an absent one, and the Ascension celebrates his true victory and power.
We should view this Ascension Day as our V Day – our celebration of Jesus’s full victory of death and sin and the beginning of our own everlasting reign with us. This is a day for hearty celebration.
Dr. Staudt serves as Director of Content for Exodus and as an Instructor for the Lay Division of St. John Vianney Seminary. He is the author of How the Eucharist Can Save Civilization (TAN), Restoring Humanity: Essays on the Evangelization of Culture (Divine Providence Press) and The Beer Option: Brewing a Catholic Culture Yesterday & Today (Angelico Press). He holds a Ph.D. in systematic theology from Ave Maria University and B.A. and M.A. in Catholic Studies from the University of St. Thomas (St. Paul, MN). He and wife, Anne, have six children and he is a Benedictine oblate.