Ascending from the Mundane to the Divine

Jijo Kandamkulathy, CMF

Claretian Publications, Macau

Feast of Ascension – Year C

LK 24:46-53                                                      

The Ascension is part of the realization of God’s plan. For Jesus, it was returning to the Father after fulfilling his mission. Fulfilling the Father’s plan was his only objective. Planning ahead or having dreams for the future is important; not those dreams that we see when we are asleep, but the ones that we imagine to be achievable, those that we imagine to be transformative to ourselves, those that we engage in with a completely lucid mind. Keep those dreams alive. They liberate us from the destinies that our past or genetics have determined for us. If we think our past defines us, we should know that our dreams will liberate us.

The final message of Jesus before the Ascension was to preach repentance and forgiveness of sins. True evangelization is to announce to people that there is a way to be liberated from their sins and their memories. There is a way to ascend out of what sedates them in their ordinary existence and wake up to the dream of reaching God – the ascent.

It is impossible for me to go through the feast of the Ascension without remembering John Climacus’ (640 AD) Scala, the Ladder of Divine Ascent ever since I read it. It is a thirty-step ladder to reach a life of Christian perfection. The ascent is a journey achieved by shedding weight—renunciation is the key. Renounce what you own, what belongs to you until you have only your body to renounce. The more one is able to renounce, the higher one ascends to the divine realm.

“The Son of God became Son of Man so that the sons of men could become sons of God.” This quote from Saint Augustine absorbs the essence of the descent and ascent of Christ. The descent of Christ shared the human predicaments, and the ascent opened the world of human possibilities, or better still, the divine possibilities of humanity. The Credo says “He descended into the dead,” waking them up to the dreams of God, and he ascended to the Father, offering them the possibility of ultimate liberation from death.

We are often too attached to our mundane experiences, to our physical being, hurrying between tasks and doing rituals of the day with little vision of our ideal selves. The Ascension is a time to look up and raise ourselves a little above our ordinary experiences to our spiritual and ideal selves.  Our ideal selves are the selves that we should become: it is God’s dream for us that everyone of us should ascend to him.

I do not remember where I read this story, but the narrative kept me captivated. A boy climbs up the mast of a ship to replace a torn flag. The ship was caught in a raging sea. He managed to tie the flag. When it was time to descend, he looked down and found himself on the heaving mast against the backdrop of the waves that appeared to engulf his ship. He was terrified and could not gather enough courage to look down again and climb down. Then the captain called out to him, “Look up, and feel the steps of the ladder with your feet and come down. Look up…. Look up…” That advice worked well. He gathered his courage to reach the deck. Ascension calls for looking up to heaven, so that we can handle every descent with our gaze still fixed on the ascending Christ.

It is the way to go through the difficult journeys of our lives. To look up above the tempests of our daily lives, to ascend out of what limits our full, complete lives. The earth and its cares, the body and its desires are not bad in themselves. But the cares of the body and things that are dear to us lock us into a certain prison of self-seeking behavior.

Sometimes we identify this small world of ours as the final horizon of lives. The feast of the Ascension invites us to breach the ceiling of our prejudices and belief systems that trap us in our small world. Once we break the ceiling, we are able to see the sky of divine possibilities and of living life in its fullness.

(Image: geralt at Pixabay)