“Understanding the Ascension” by “Legere ab Intus” – reading Christ from within oneself.

 Key: One divine Person with two natures- Council of Chalcedon (451). Since all free action is the action of a person, The Divine “I” is both in heaven and earth at the same time. Supernatural and natural, divine and human, created and uncreated must always be understood within the One Christ.

 Ascension Thursday: Robert Barron
JOHN 16:16-20
Friends, in today’s Gospel, Jesus gently tells his disciples of his impending return to his Father in heaven. We tend to read the Ascension along essentially Enlightenment lines, rather than Biblical lines—and that causes a good deal of mischief. Enlightenment thinkers introduced a two-tier understanding of heaven and earth. They held that God exists, but he lives in a distant realm called heaven, from which he looks at a human project moving along pretty much on its own steam, on earth.

On this Enlightenment reading, the Ascension means that Jesus goes up, up, and away, off to a distant and finally irrelevant place. But he Biblical point is this: Jesus has gone to heaven so as to direct operations more fully here on earth. That’s why we pray, “Thy kingdom come, they will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Jesus has not gone up, up, and away, but rather, if I can put it this way, more deeply into our world. He has gone to a dimension that transcends but impinges upon our universe.

To read the Ascension according to Biblical lines, we have to read it within the liturgical experience of giving ourselves  which is the only true way to read and understand the Bible. And in this case, to understand that Christ Ascension into heaven is his doubling down in His presence here with us and …. in us.

In this light, read Augustine:

“Today our Lord Jesus Christ ascended into heaven; let our hearts ascend with him. Listen to the words of the Apostle: If you have risen with Christ, set your hearts on the things that are above where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God; seek the things that are above, not the things that are on earth.

“For just as he remained with us even after his ascension, so we too are already in heaven with him, even though what is promised us has not yet been fulfilled in our bodies.

“Christ is now exalted above the heavens, but he still suffers on earth all the pain that we, the members of his body, have to bear. He showed this when he cried out from above: Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? and when he said: I was hungry and you gave me food.

“Why do we on earth not strive to find rest with him in heaven even now, through the faith, hope and love that unites us to him? While in heaven he is also with us; and we while on earth are with him. He is here with us by his divinity, his power and his love. We cannot be in heaven, as he is on earth, by divinity, but in him, we can be there by love.

“He did not leave heaven when he came down to us; nor did he withdraw from us when he went up again into heaven. The fact that he was in heaven even while he was on earth is borne out by his own statement: No one has ever ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man, who is in heaven.

“These words are explained by our oneness with Christ, for he is our head and we are his body. No one ascended into heaven except Christ because we also are Christ: he is the Son of Man by his union with us, and we by our union with him are the sons of God. So the Apostle says: Just as the human body, which has many members, is a unity, because all the different members make one body, so is it also with Christ. He too has many members, but one body.

“Out of compassion for us he descended from heaven, and although he ascended alone, we also ascend, because we are in him by grace. Thus, no one but Christ descended and no one but Christ ascended; not because there is no distinction between the head and the body, but because the body as a unity cannot be separated from the head.”[1]

      Blogger:  The Liturgy is the action of Christ the priest which surpasses all other actions because it is the divine “I” of Christ making the gift of Himself as God-man. It is priestly because it is the supreme and unique act of a divine Person. The Giver Himself is the Gift given. As Act, the Person of Christ is supremely intelligible – intelligibility and act being one. Since “like is known by like,” one must become the act which is the Person of Christ in order to know Him. This is the reason, Scripture must be read within the Church and within the liturgical act that is the Mass. If not, one is not able to understand how  Christ can be the kingdom of heaven in himself as Person, and how by knowing Him we are already in heaven (although Scripture will say that “I am going to prepare a place for you.” John 14…..). Without the experiential knowing that comes with the act of self-transcendence that is faith


And what makes it possible to perform this act is the Creator loving us which is called “faith.” And so, faith is the love that powers the person to go out of self and so mimic the Person known Who is totally out of Self as Son of the Father, and in so going become intelligible as revelation. And so, Scripture – the gospels – are not revelation but the self becoming Christ as act-out-of-self. Therefore, Ratzinger writes that it is not correct to speak of scripture and tradition (books and human words) as sources of revelation (except in the sense that they are conduits of revelation), but “the word ‘revelation’ refers to the act (my emphasis) in which God shows himself, not to the objectified result of this act. And because this is so, the receiving subject is always also a part of the concept of ‘revelation.’ Where there is no one to perceive revelation,’ no re-vel-ation has occurred, because no veil has been removed. By definition, revelation requires a someone who apprehends it.”[1] Ratzinger repeats elsewhere: “Consequently, the person who receives it also is a part of the revelation to a certain degree, for without him it does not exist. You cannot put revelation in your pocket like a book you carry around with you. It is a living reality that requires a living person as the locus of its presence.”[2] He concludes his point: “Scripture is not revelation but, in any case, is only a part of this greater reality.”[3] And the believer himself is part of the revelation in that he has to come out of himself to see and know the Christ that he has partially become. And so, the knowing of God also necessarily involves knowing the self, and vice versa.

[1] J. Ratzinger, “”Milestones” Ignatiuis (1997) 108-109.

[2]  J. Ratzinger, “God’s Word.” Ignatius (2005) 52.

[3]  Idem 53.

P.s.  Keep in mind: ”Heaven is a creation of theologians at the turn of the second millennium when confronted by the discrepancy between the testimony of Christ that “the time is now here; the kingdom of God has come.” It is not difficult to understand the hopes aroused by such a saying…. [2] Christian theology… confronted by this discrepancy between expectation and fulfillment, in the course of time turned the kingdom of God into a kingdom of heaven that is beyond this mortal life; the well-being of men became a salvation of souls, which again comes to pass beyond this life, after death. But… the Lord was talking not just about another life, not just about men’s souls, but was addressing the body, the whole man, in his embodied form, with his involvement in history and society; that he promised the kingdom of God to the man who lives bodily with other men in this history.”[3]

In case you are lost: Remember that the above is “theological epistemology.” I refer  to Ratzinger’s “Behold the Pierced One,” theses 1, 2 and  3 where he enunciates that knowing in some way becoming “like” the other. So, if Christ reveals himself to be prayer, unless one prays, one cannot be “like” Christ and know Him as Simon who was able to say: “You are the Christ, Son of the living God.” And as a result, Christ changed Simon’s name from Simon to Peter because  by praying, he had become rock as Christ was corner stone. So also, to understand Scripture that is written by the Spirit, one must be able to hear by praying out of self. The understanding at first is not properly conceptual which is a lower way of knowing according to us, but rat her to experience and become conscious os the transcendent reality. One must become transcendent to understand (ab intu legere) the Transcendent.



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