Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God: that like as we do believe thy Only Begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended into the heavens; so we may also in heart and mind thither ascend, and with him continually dwell; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
A reading from the sermons of Blessed John Henry Newman
‘It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us’ (Rom 8:34). The Ascension of our Lord and Saviour is an event ever to be commemorated with joy and thanksgiving, for St Paul tells us in the text that he ascended to the right hand of God, and there makes intercession for us. Hence it is our comfort to know, that ‘if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and he is the propitiation for our sins’ (1 Jn 2:1, 2). As the Jewish High Priest, after the solemn sacrifice for the people on the great day of Atonement, went into the Holy of Holies with the blood of the victim, and sprinkled it upon the Mercy-Seat, so Christ has entered into heaven itself, to present (as it were) before the Throne that sacred Tabernacle which was the instrument of his passion, – his pierced hands and wounded side, – in token to the atonement which he has effected for the sins of the world.
Wonder and awe must always mingle with the thankfulness which the revealed dispensation of mercy raises in our minds. And this, indeed, is an additional cause of thankfulness, that Almighty God has disclosed to us enough of his high Providence to raise such sacred and reverent feelings. Had he merely told us that he had pardoned us, we should have had overabundant cause for blessing and praising him; but in showing us something of the means, in vouchsafing to tell us what cannot wholly be told, in condescending to abase heavenly things to the weak and stammering tongues of earth, he had enlarged our gratitude, yet sobered it with fear. We are allowed with Angels to obtain a glimpse of the mysteries of Heaven, ‘to rejoice with trembling’. Therefore, so far from considering the Truths of the Gospel as a burden, because they are beyond our understanding, we shall rather welcome them and exult in them, nay, and feel an antecedent stirring of heart towards them, for the very reason that they are above us.[…]
We are not given to see the secret shrine in which God dwells. Before him stand the Seraphim, veiling their faces. Christ is within the veil. We must not search curiously what is his present office, what is meant by his pleading his sacrifice, and by his perpetual intercession for us. And since we do not know, we will studiously keep to the figure given us in Scripture; we will not attempt to interpret it, or change the wording of it, being wise above what is written. We will not neglect it, because we do not understand it. We will hold it as a Mystery, or (what was anciently called) a Truth Sacramental; that is, a high invisible grace lodged in an outward form, a precious possession to be piously and thankfully guarded for the sake of the heavenly reality contained in it. Thus much we see in it, the pledge of a doctrine which reason cannot understand, viz. of the influence of the prayer of faith upon the Divine counsels. The Intercessor directs or stays the hand of the Unchangeable and Sovereign Governor of the World; being at once the meritorious cause and the earnest of the intercessory power of his brethren. ‘Christ rose again for our justification’, ‘The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much’, are both infinite mercies, and deep mysteries.