I AM ASCENDING
“Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, ‘Do not touch me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ Mary Magdalene went and said to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her.” (Jn 20: 16-18)
As the feast of the Lord’s Ascension is coming up (for those of us on the Orthodox church-calendar), I am thinking about these words, said by the risen Lord to Mary Magdalene (and through her, to the disciples) about His upcoming ascension. He is announcing to them the very purpose of His resurrection, to elevate our human nature to the highest of heights, – to be “received up into heaven,” and to sit “on the right hand of God” (Mk 16: 19).
He is also announcing a new way of being “with” them, which would not be the previous, physical living with them, preaching to the crowds and performing miracles, no. His work here was accomplished, although the apostles can’t seem to grasp this fact. Even at the moment of the ascension, they’re asking Him: “Lord, will you at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1: 6) Having been “raised in glory” and in a transformed, “spiritual body” (1 Cor 15: 42-44) in His resurrection, the Lord transformed in Himself our human nature, and next He is to elevate this our human nature further, in His ascent “to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God,” as He says, recognizing us as His “brethren.” Our Lord does not “go away” from us or cease His fellowship with us after His ascension, but inaugurates a new kind of fellowship or communion with us, of and in the Spirit, in the sacramental era of the Church. We no longer “see” and “touch” Him in the same way that His followers once could, (a reality to which He introduces Mary, when He says to her, “Do not touch me” – and yes, I am aware of the other translation of that word), but we do so sacramentally, in the unifying Spirit Who makes us one with Christ and one another. Glory be to Him for it all.
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