May 3, 2016

Why Satan Hates the Ascension of Christ

Ascension, Copley, 1775

By Matthew Coffin

In a few days the Church will celebrate the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord. It is a holy day of obligation. Forty days after his Resurrection, Christ ascended into heaven. His Ascension marked the end of his earthly ministry. Having conquered sin and death, Jesus ascended to receive the glory due him [Philippians 2:8-11], mediate on our behalf [Hebrews 9:24], send the Holy Spirit promised at the Last Supper [John 16:7], and prepare a place for us in eternity [John 14:2]. Immediately following the Ascension, an angel informs the disciples that Christ’s Second Coming will occur in the same way. According to the Catechism [668], "Christ's Ascension into heaven signifies his participation, in his humanity, in God's power and authority." Our Lord’s Ascension bridges his Incarnation in humility with his coming again at the end of time as King and Supreme Judge of the universe.

Since his Ascension, Christ’s glorified body has sat at the right hand of the Father. The divinization of Christ in his incarnate body has profound implications for us. Jesus is the Exemplar, par excellence, of how we should live and what we ought to do. He also reveals our destiny, if we persevere in love.

Christ's bodily Ascension prefigures our own life in heaven not simply as disembodied souls, following death, but as the union of our glorified bodies with our souls at the Final Judgment. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross redeemed us. His Ascension assured the restoration of all creation to God’s design. St. John Paul II observes that our experience of heaven will far exceed the state of perfect bliss known by our first parents before Satan’s temptation.

Satan’s lie in the garden condemned humanity to lives of sin, drudgery and inexorable physical death. Prior to the Fall, the created world and everything in it functioned precisely as God intended. It was in short, Paradise.

We don't often think of it this way, but before the first sin, the entire world was a temple in which human beings worshiped the one true God. Man fully possessed original goodness and original justice. With Adam’s sin, the world at large stopped being a temple. It became necessary to build a temple where God could be worshiped. Moreover, man had to purify himself before entering this sacred space. Everything in the created world was profaned including human nature, our relationship to beauty, truth and goodness, our relationship with the natural world, our relationships with each other, and our relationship with God. Paradise was lost.

The Threefold Effect of Christ's Ascension
Christ was made man that we might be made God.
― St. Athanasius of Alexandria

Satan hates Christ’s Ascension because, by virtue of it: 1.) The effects of Satan’s lie are undone. 2.) In eternity, the one thing Satan seeks to hurt most, namely human beings, will be elevated to a dignity and intimacy with their Creator far greater than that experienced by Adam and Eve. 3.) Christ’s Ascension promises that the souls of the virtuous will be reunited with their glorified bodies.

In his Ascension, Jesus incarnate makes possible and prefigures our ultimate Summum bonum. Following the Last Judgment, the good will enjoy the Beatific Vision, see God face to face, and experience perfect happiness. Salvation history will cease, having achieved its ultimate purpose, love will triumph over evil, and darkness will be no more. Christ's Ascension sounds the death knell for sin, reminds Satan his days are numbered, and justifies our hearts’ deepest longings – giving our prayers, works, joys, and sufferings a divine purpose – so that we may love and serve God with infinite hope in this life until we live with Him forever in the next.

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