Iím going to take -- if youíll get used to a little bit of cold, hard philosophy, weíre going to do a little on the ascension tonight so that you can get comparative reactions of these two events.
Q: Is this the ascension or the descension?
This is the ascension. Because when he descended, he went through this other realm and into the other world.
Q: That was a descension.
That was a descension, but when he went above he was cutting the path through to the other world, the ascension, where he didnít come back.
During the forty days between the resurrection and the ascension, Jesus comforted his disciples and continued their training, which the Holy Ghost was to finish on the Pentecost.
Now notice, he started the pattern for the completion of the revelation at the Pentecost. This was in the forty days before this event as directed by Christ when he went from Galilee to Jerusalem at the appointed time. There, a few hours before his ascension, he gave them his last admonition and bade them farewell. As St. Luke relates at the closing of his gospel and at the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles, the Savior at that final meeting with his Apostles cast a look back over the years that he lived with them and reminded them how often he had repeated that the Old Testament prophecies about him had to be fulfilled to the letter. "These are the words which I spoke to you while I was yet with you, that all things must needs be fulfilled which are written in the law of Moses and in the prophets and in the psalms concerning me." The law, the prophets and the psalms, this formula stands for the entire Old Testament by mentioning its three great divisions.
Now, I have heard people recently who criticized me because I read the Bible and tried to use the law when I read it, and its form. And here we find the confirmation of this when we talk about the law, the prophets and the psalms. Because the psalms are poetical, they are words related to the human living earth form. They are prayers for the gifts of God in earth, so they are the consummation of the Trinity and therefore the entire Bible must have been built on this foundation or it would not have been so in these three great things in the old Bible, because they were preparing for the New.
The Old Testament, by mentioning its three great divisions which contain all the outstanding Messianic prophecies - since that divine Book is of such importance for the Christian instruction, being of the very foundation thereof, Christ opened their understanding so that henceforth they were able by themselves to interpret the sacred text in an illuminating manner. This is the foundation on which Luther had a great controversy with the Roman Catholic church. This was the only difference between them and the Catholic church, that man had a right to interpret the canon or the holy text themselves for himself - not for somebody else, for himself.
The Holy Ghost soon afterwards completed this gift by virtue of which the first preachers of the gospel were able to discover in the Jewish Bible the details that referred to their divine Master, and this gift was subsequently transmitted to the church. (And here we have what is called the letters of continuity, or the divine - I canít remember the Latin word now, but itís a word which represents, that carries forth the word of the Law, where it speaks of the books of the Law, on into the New Testament, and which is called the church of God.) And this gift was subsequently transmitted to the church, which became the infallible depository of the true sense of the sacred book, and to this gift we owe the incomparable interpretations of the holy fathers, notably Ambrose, Jeremy, Augustine, and other great Catholic men - Catholic prophets, Catholic men, Catholic diocesans, and so forth. In fact, only by the light coming from on high can we understand and interpret the Holy Writ. Yes?
Q: Father, they donít mean "catholic" in the sense of Roman.
Well, they donít say so.
Q: They mean "universal".
They donít say so.
Q: It would have to be universal to be ...
I know, but they donít say so here, so I take this as what they meant, because they spoke of Roman Catholic in some other places.
Thus it is written that our Lord then said, "Thus it is written and thus it behooves Christ to suffer and to rise again from the dead on the third day, and that penance and remission of sins should be preached in his name unto all the nations beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witness to these things, and I send the promise of my Father upon you. Here it is, the promise of my Father upon you. You may stay, but stay you in this city till you be imbued with power from on high."
Q: Is this endowed?
No, this is not endowed. This you see is the commission of the priest and the minister, you see. We see how insistently he dwells upon the necessity of his passion and death which were so clearly foretold by the prophets. And he briefly mentions the four qualities of the apostolic preaching. (Here we come again, the powers of the priest and the preacher.) It will be in his name. It will announce repentance and forgiveness of sins. It will extend to all nations. It must begin at Jerusalem. The Jewish capital being the center of the true religion and true teachings had to, had a right to the privilege, and the Apostles were carefully - careful not to deprive Jerusalem of that privilege. In fact, it was in the holy city that they first preached the Christian faith with prodigious success. At this point some of the disciples asked our Lord a question which seemed inopportune and surprising, especially at such a time: "Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom of Israel?í
They were referring to the kingdom of the Messiah, such as the Jews then considered it: an outward political kingdom sumptuous and brilliant, with the descendants of Abraham as its chief subject, a kingdom in which the pagans would have the right of citizenship on condition that they incorporate themselves in Judaism. This is something that is not usually known by many people, but this was one of the new conditions, that the pagans might inhabit Jerusalem if they would go into Judaism if they were so fortunate as to survive the overwhelming defeats which the Jews would inflict upon them in battle. It is evident that these disciples still had an imperfect understanding of their Masterís instructions, although it had been so precise, and that they were in great need of the Holy Spirit. Our Lord answered, "It is not for you to know the time or the moment which the Father has put in His own power. But you shall receive the power of the Holy Ghost coming upon you. And you shall be witness unto me in Jerusalem and all Judea and Samaria, and even to the uttermost parts of the earth"
I have listened many times and I wouldnít doubt but what you have listened too, to evangelist ministers referring to this passage as part of the prediction of the end of this age and the coming return of Jesus; and it had nothing to do with it at all, because they had picked these few verses out of context, you see, again. Yes?
Q: It does say further on in the Bible that until my doctrine had been preached throughout all the world ... then he would come.
Yes, thatís right. But this, at this moment it had nothing to do with that particular thing as related to the time. This different, these different instructions were closely followed by our Lordís glorious ascension which brought him, his earthly life, to a close. It is very briefly related by St. Mark and St. Luke. Having entered the world in a miraculous and mysterious manner, the incarnate Son of God, in a mysterious manner also and by another miracle, ascended into heaven. He went to Mount Olive accompanied by the Apostles, a number of disciples and some holy women who were then at Jerusalem.
Now you notice they do not leave the female gender out of this, and this I think is pleasing because we have this to work with. Then at Jerusalem probably he was also accompanied by his blessed mother. This is there, Iím sure, since she was in the same temple with him, with the assembly of the faithful on Ascension day. With these devoted friends our Lord reached a certain spot on Mt. Olive, a spot now occupied by the Moslem village of El Tour, which is interesting. At this Moslem village, some less than a mile northwest of Bethany, from which, from this same hill a few weeks before, the procession had set out that conducted Jesus in time to Jerusalem as the Messiah. It now becomes the point of his departure for heaven. An unbroken tradition, going back to the year 316, guarantees the authenticity of this site. There St. Helena erected a small rotunda-shaped shrine which was subsequently destroyed and rebuilt several times. The Mohammedans have turned it into a mosque, as they have many other Christian sanctuaries.
Our Lord, after bidding farewell to his disciples who were present, raised his arms and imparted his last blessing to them; and while thus blessing them he slowly - notice now - he slowly and majestically arose from the ground before the very eyes of his disciples. Soon - soon, now, not at the time but soon - a cloud hid him from view. Even after he had disappeared the disciples remained prostrate in the attitude of adoration and kept looking from side to side hoping to see him again. Two angels in human form appeared to them, clothed in white as on the day of Christís resurrection, and said to them: "Why stand you looking up to heaven? This Jesus who is taken up from you into heaven shall so come as you have seen him going into heaven." That is, at his second coming at the end of the world.
Q: Did Jesus say Christís the second coming?
Q: So there is the ... that is moving ... body up... corroded by ...
No, this - you canít call it that because this had gone through all the transformation. It was no longer the same. It was the body of light. It was illuminated completely.
Q: I still think the physical structure looked like him ... body.
Oh yeah, yes, sure, thatís right.
Q: The light ... So he will come down in that body.
Thatís all right. I never said he shouldnít.
Q: Yes, but in the discussion one night you said you werenít sure.
Thatís right. Iím still not sure. I expect I set the word of the Testament on this, but there are no writings that predict this at all. And thereís nothing in the record that is controversial to this. Iíve never seen anything that was controversial to this, so I accept that it is, and I say no matter how he comes, why, itís all right with me. ... .
Q: In other words, when he left he had the same type of body ...
Q: ... inaudible ...
Well, somewhere around there, thatís for sure.
The Apostles and the disciples went back to Jerusalem with a void in their hearts, knowing they would no more enjoy the happiness of their beloved Masterís presence on earth. Yet they were filled with joy, as St. Luke tells us: "Because the Savior had ascended to his Father where his sacred humanity, that humanity which had suffered so much affliction, would be in honor and peace, thus gloriously ending the Saviorís life among men. And now he is seated at the right hand of his Father, governing, protecting and blessing his church. It is owing to him that it grew so quickly and that despite the peril of bloody persecution and the greater peril of heresy which often assailed it, it was - it has persevered in faith and love."
I was very interested in that term "heresy" because: "and the greatest peril of heresy". He isnít saying that, which way that heresy worked, you see. Heís just saying that heresy existed. He didnít eliminate it from the acts of the church or the acts of man, either one. And this, I think, is a good cold-blooded idea. Yes?
Q: Something I noticed he traced the growth of the church up through the Christ from this stage. He did not mention the early church.
No, church, thatís all. And there is a little bit here, a paragraph about one page which I thought had an interesting connotation to it. Who was Jesus? And I liked his approach, sort of, to this. About a year before his death the Lord Jesus asked his Apostles, "Who do men say that the Son of Man is?" Those who knew him but imperfectly through his preaching and miracles, regarded him merely as a great prophet. Elisha, Jeremiahs or John the Baptist miraculously come to life. But when he said to the Apostles, "But whom do you say that I am?" one of his most intimate Apostles who had lived for many months in consistent association with him, and to him he had most fully revealed himself, made the famous reply, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." Now, this is an emphatic and empirical statement but absolute in its form and relationship, because he had become Christed then, you see. So this was a statement of reality.
Is not this the very reply we would make to Christ without the slightest hesitation if he were to ask us as he asked the Apostles, "Whom do you say I am?" The word would come from our lips and hearts with a ready earnestness.
I think this man had great faith in humanity, donít you? To make our profession of faith the more complete we would repeat his chief title, saying that he is the most perfect of the sons of Adam, the greatest of the prophets and the most powerful of miracle workers, and the most eminent of doctors. a religious reformer of the very first rank, or Savior and Redeemer, universal king, the Messiah, the Son, the beloved Son of God. Let us now attempt briefly to justify these various titles. Yes?
Q: ... he said being the son of Adam. He was definitely not the son of Adam. Adam was the son of God, but Jesus was not the son of Adam. ... this was a broad statement.
Well, I think if you go back further into the Greek I think youíll find that they donít take this Adam just the same as it is taken now, in the Bible.
Q: Well, the name Adam ... the man Jesus ...
Well, put that down and weíll go over that. How is that? I mean thereís no sense in discussing it now. I havenít got the material down here, thatís the point, and I canít bring it forth properly without that.
After the study of the Saviorís life we must say - now this is out of the critics - after the study of the Saviorís life we must say that he is a personage unique in the history of mankind and most perfect of the children of Adam. We might repeat the words of one of the apocryphal friends: "Even had there been no prophecy about Christ, and even had he performed no miracles, there is something so divine in his teaching and his life that one must be charmed by it. And as there is no real virtue nor uprightness of heart without the love of Christ, there is no loftiness of mind or delicacy of feeling without admiration for Christ. For him alone and for none other in the world. And these were critics that were following and bringing down the reasons for his adoption, and their acceptance of this.
Well, Iím going to cut this it a little short tonight because youíre going out on patrol and I think that some of these things should be discussed; and Iíll get a little more references on them and then Iíll discuss them with you.
There is some other work here on the descension. It says here just briefly: Negative criticism which rejects our Lordís resurrection as impossible thereby evidently denies the historical character of his ascension, bringing it otherwise to the domain of myth or legend. Some do not even take any notice of the event although it is the culmination of the Saviorís earthly life. A few, however, attack it without discretion and also without originality, again having recourse of their usual methods. Though our Lordís ascension is but briefly recounted by Saints Mark and Luke, it is one of the best attested facts in the New Testament, independent of the three narratives that form the basis of our account.
All right, gentlemen, class dismissed.