Sunday Reflection | Ascending yet Abiding | Seventh Sunday of Easter - Saint John's Seminary
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Sunday Reflection | Ascending yet Abiding | Seventh Sunday of Easter

May 21, 2023

By: Dcn. Matthew Harrington,

The opening collect of today’s Mass contains what might seem to be a contradiction. In it we pray to the Father proclaiming that we “believe that the Savior of the human race is with you in glory.” This is a clear reference to the mystery of the Ascension which we celebrated this past Thursday. In the Ascension, Christ was lifted up and taken into heaven to sit upon his throne at the right hand of the Father. At the same time our collect also asks that “we may experience, as he promised, until the end of the world, his abiding presence among us.” It is a prayer that begs the Father, asking him to always allow us to experience Christ’s abiding presence. Here lies the apparent contradiction. We recognize that Christ has ascended to the Father, and we ask that Christ may always abide with us. How can this be? How can Christ both ascend and abide with us at the same time?

Well Christ did truly ascend into heaven. Christ does not continue to abide with us by walking around, teaching, healing, or performing other miracles as he did prior to his ascension. However Christ now abides here with his people in a more intimate way. Christ who ascended to the Father now comes to each of us in the sacraments. It is Christ acting in and through the sacraments which allows him to both reign in heaven while always abiding with us. In many ways this actually allows Christ to be more present to us now than he was before he ascended. Our apparent contradiction, ascending yet abiding, is not a contradiction at all, but a work of God’s grace.

You could look to each of the seven sacraments to see how Christ draws near to us while remaining on his heavenly throne. However, as we are in the middle of a Eucharistic revival, let us just consider the Eucharist which is the source and summit of the whole Christian life. Christ draws abides with us every time we participate in the Eucharist at Mass. Christ abides at Mass in the words of sacred scripture which are proclaimed. Christ abides at Mass in the ministry of the priest who by the sacrament of Holy Orders leads us in the Holy Sacrifice. Christ abides at Mass in the community gathered together as the People of God and the Body of Christ. Most significantly Christ abides with us in the Eucharist which comes down from heaven upon altars throughout the world. Simple bread and wine are transformed into the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ. At Mass we receive into our very bodies, into our very hearts, Jesus himself. So despite ascending to the Father, Christ is able to abide here with us in a real and intimate way that goes even beyond the ways Christ was present prior to his ascension.

We should be mindful of both sides of what originally seemed to be a contradiction. Christ is truly with the Father is glory, and we should desire to follow after him. Christ also abides here with us through the Church and the Sacraments. Each and every time we participate at Mass, we must be mindful that it is Christ who we celebrate, it is Christ who we receive, and it is Christ who abides with us. It is only through frequenting the sacraments and visiting Christ in the Eucharist, that we are able to allow him to abide with us while he also sits at the right hand of the Father in glory. Christ ascended to the Father, yet he continues to abide with us.