Happy Feast of the Ascension, everyone– whether you celebrated it today or a few days ago.

I was struck by this line in the Preface of the Mass today:

“Today the Lord Jesus, the king of glory, the conqueror of death, ascended to heaven while the angles sang His praises. Christ, the mediator between God and man, judge of the world and Lord of all, has passed beyond our sight, not to abandon us but to be our hope. Christ is the beginning, the head of the Church; where He has gone, we hope to follow.”

It’s one of those times when we would have written a different story; but God knows what He’s doing. Perhaps it seemed to the Apostles that Christ was leaving them alone again. After forty great days of learning more about the kingdom, now He was departing from them — and leaving that kingdom in their hands. Wouldn’t it be better if He just stuck around?

Instead, He leaves them– but doesn’t really leave them. He goes ahead of them to the place He has prepared for them– to be their hope– but He makes good on His promise to never leave them orphans. And after they pray the proto-novena of the Church, He sends them the fullnes of the Spirit to empower them to be His witnesses. And now we are the Messianic people, empowered with that same Spirit for that same mission.

The Ascension is often overlooked. Or, worse yet, simply portrayed as that day when Jesus somehow went up into the sky as the Apostles stood and watched.

But it’s so much more than that. Remember, the Paschal Mystery is the passion, death, resurrection AND ascension of Christ. He wasn’t done yet!

As Pope St. Leo the Great reminds us: “Today we are not only made possessors of paradise but we have ascended with Christ, mystically but really, into the highest heaven, and through Christ we have obtained a more ineffable grace than that which we lost through the devil’s envy.”

Now that’s deep stuff.