Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Ascension of the Bridegroom

Reflections on the Readings

The Ascension of the Lord - June 1, 2014 - Year A

The Ascension of the Bridegroom

(That you may know)…What is the immeasurable greatness of his power in us who believe, according to the working of his great might which he accomplished in Christ when he raised him from the dead and made him sit at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, above every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in that which is to come…

The Ascension of our Lord is a love story filled with promise and hope for the Church that awaits with joyful expectation for His return. Shortly before He ascended to His Father, Jesus said, "Let not your hearts be troubled…In my Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for? And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also." (John 14:1-3)

Jesus speaks with the love of a bridegroom promising to return for his waiting bride once everything is ready for her. Lest we think that his promise, "I'll never leave you nor forsake you," is not real, St. Paul invokes upon the Church his prayers, "That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened." (Ephesians 1:17-18) The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, which the Ascension precedes and anticipates, is the Promise of the Father assuring us that we will not be left comfortless in the interim. He has put his seal upon us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it; that we are His; the recipients of His holy affection. (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 2:13-14) 

The spiritual nuptial agreement was signed, sealed and delivered in the outpouring of our Redeemer's affection on the Cross on which He gave himself for us. When the veil of his flesh was pierced with the sword, forthwith came blood and water, and underscores the consummate truth that Christ is himself the Savior of the Church. 

In the earliest understandings of the Church the mystery of marriage is an icon of Christ united to his bride, the Church. The sainted Apostle Paul explained and challenged the husbands of the first century Church at Ephesus to "love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her." What manner of love did Christ lavish upon the Church? Paul says, "Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the Church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish." (Ephesians 5:25-27)  

The great and holy mystery of love is explained in how a husband is to love his wife as his own body for he who loves his wife loves himself. There is a completion of a husband's understanding of who he is and who he is to be in the self giving nuptial embrace. A man truly in love with his wife exhibits a healthy self image for no man ever hates his own flesh in that he is to love his wife as his own body; he is to nourish and cherish the bride in his arms, as Christ does the Church for we are members of his body as a bride is one with her husband in his embrace. When a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, the two become one flesh. This is a profound mystery in that it also refers to the spiritual nuptial embrace of Christ and His Church. For in him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our sins, according to the riches of his grace which he lavished upon us. (Ephesians 5:28-32; 1:7-8)

Since the day Christ Ascended the Church lives in the awareness that Jesus entered into heaven itself to appear in the presence of God for her. On our behalf Christ entered into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves but his own blood, and secured for us our eternal redemption. With the immeasurable greatness of his power we proclaim his love and mercy and invite the sons and daughters of this age to look up and to see Him who is high and lifted up. For He who ascended far above all principalities and powers and every name that is named this very moment sits at the Father's right hand and will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly awaiting for him, as a Bride adorned for her husband. (Hebrews 9:12; Hebrews 9:28)

Dennis Hankins is a parishioner at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, of the Diocese of Knoxville, TN.  Prior to uniting with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil 2006, Dennis served as a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. E-mail Dennis at: or follow him on Twitter: @dshankins or visit him at:


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