The Ascension, although not quite the culminating solemnity of this glorious Easter Season is one in which we come back full circle—back to where it all began: In a garden, standing before a tree laden with forbidden fruit. As we know, our First Parents defied our Creator’s command and, at the Ancient Serpent’s beguiling suggestion, ate of that fruit because they had been promised that they would become like God. Sadly, they had been misled, and not only did they not become like God, but they became even less than the noble persons they already were.
It was to right this tragic wrong, that the Eternal Word took mortal flesh to redeem fallen humanity and free us from our lonely exile and misery. Now although the Ascension marks the completion of this great mission, he was not now simply returning to that eternal realm and existence from which he had descended. Instead, the vision of Christ being taken up in a cloud was one which confirmed that in doing so, he had not divested himself of his humanity, but was bearing it with him into the very heart of the Trinity.
And where the Head has gone before, we, the body, are invited to follow. And in doing so, our humanity undergoes, paradoxically, what Adam and Eve had sought to attain through their foolish act of disobedience—namely, to become like God. For, in and through Christ our Head, we his members share in his divinity and in the process of thus becoming like God, are granted in the ineffable privilege and honor of being drawn into the very inner life of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
However, whereas the act of reaching out and partaking of the forbidden fruit took but a brief moment, the journey back into paradise has stretched through eons and millennia. That glorious moment (depicted in iconography) when Jesus descended into hell and freed waiting Adam and Eve from their grave, had been preceded by that long history of salvation whose barest outline we trace at every Easter Vigil. This long journey from captivity to freedom for all God’s people, is one that also has to take place in the heart of each of us as we too endure our long pilgrimage home.
It is thus when this journey seems endless and progress towards our final goal stalling, that we need to remind ourselves of God’s noble intentions for us manifested in the glorious Ascension of his Incarnate Son. For, Eve and Adam were not wrong to desire to be like their Creator, it was their attempt to seize this glory by their own efforts that lost them what God had always intended and wished to bestow. Let us not further frustrate God’s noble plans for us by imitating their mistake, but lovingly and trustingly surrender to the transforming and divinizing love of God, and so allow ourselves to be taken up with our ascending Lord and through the once again open gates of Paradise.