Look to the Glory – Br. James Koester

Acts 1: 1-11

Growing up as I did in the 1960’s, my world view was pretty consistent. What I saw on TV, as I sat cross-legged in the Davin School gym as each Apollo mission took off into outer space, or splashed down after a successful mission was the same as I saw each Sunday, gazing up at the stained glass window over the altar at St. Mary’s Church. There was Jesus, blasting off into heaven, vapour trails around his ankles and awestruck or bewildered disciples kneeling, watching in amazement as this first century space mission took off into orbit. It all made perfect sense to me at the time, and I must confess, that is the image of the Ascension that first comes to mind as I ponder the mystery of the feast each year.

But we need to remind ourselves, the Ascension is not rocket science. Jesus is not some first century astronaut. We’re not looking at a space mission or vapour trails. The disciples are not the earth bound mission control team of NASSA. The Ascension is much more than that, because the Ascension as we see it in stained glass is not about some exploration of limitless space, but the reality of the limits of language.

What the disciples experienced that day, was so profound, that language and art have failed over time to convey the depths of the reality. When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.[1] Even Paul struggles with how to convey the mystery of the Ascension when he says simply God raised [Jesus] from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places.[2]

We are left with either this image of a space age Jesus, or some kind of remote and distant coronation of a heavenly king. Both fail to convey, not only what the Ascension says about Jesus, but what is says about us as well, for if we truly believe that baptism does what we say it does, in that it makes us members of Christ, then the Ascension is about us, as well as Jesus. Father Benson puts it this way:

The feast of the Ascension helps us to realize the unity of the glorious life which thrills through the whole Body of Christ, the head and the members….He is not glorified in his own Person alone; his Apostles had fed on him, has his body within them by virtue of the Holy Eucharist…. He was in them…. Now, upon His Ascension, his body in them is glorified instantaneously with the glorifying of his body at the right hand of the Father. Like an electric flash, the glory of the Spirit shines out in the fires of Pentecost. The body of Christ, however veiled in our flesh…cannot but have the glory of the Spirit of holy fire, burning and resting upon it. We do not dwell, as we ought, upon the present glorification of our nature, in our own persons, as members of the glorified body of Christ…. We need to feel that glory round about us.[3]

The Ascension is not rocket science, and it loses its power if we reduce it to a literal description of what happened that day, outside Jerusalem. Instead, the Ascension is about the mystery of Christ’s present reality: risen, ascended and glorified by the Father, a glory that not only shall be ours one day, but is ours today. As members of Christ through Baptism, having feasted on Christ in the Eucharist, we too are glorified with Christ. The mystery of the Ascension is not only about what has happened to Christ, but what has happened to us as well, for even today we share that glory. So today, as we, in the words of Father Benson, look to the glory of the ascended Christ, we do so, not only as he sits in glory at the right hand of the Father, but we gaze at ourselves, with the glory of the ascended Christ radiating God’s glory through our very selves. So as we look to the glory of the ascended Christ, we do so, not by gazing up, but be gazing across and beholding Christ enthroned in glory at the right hand of God, in the hearts and faces of friend and stranger.

[1] Acts 1: 9

[2] Ephesians 1: 20

[3] Benson, Richard Meux, Further Letters, page 268 – 269

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  1. Reed Saunders on May 9, 2024 at 05:44

    Thank you Br James. i often wonder why scripture uses language that can easily be taken literally when it is meant to point to something much more grand. You have helped remind me to slow down and look for the truth and the true glory of God embedded and hidden right in front of me. I will see my world differently today. Blessings!

  2. Janice on May 9, 2024 at 05:22

    To God be the glory. Amen

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