Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord

Lectionary: 58

Christ did not enter into a sanctuary made by hands, a copy of the true one, but heaven itself,
that he might now appear before God on our behalf.

This feast of the Ascension of Jesus is our feast as we celebrate the entry of our champion into the Divine Presence. We ascend with him to the Heavenly Temple. A priestly people, we offer with him the gift of his own Body and Blood, and the gift of our lives.

The Letter to the Hebrews presents Jesus as a high priest “according to the order of Melchizedek.” His ordination came not in the usual way, for he was not a Levite, but through Melchizedek, an ancient, obscure figure from prehistoric times. The name appears only twice in the Old Testament: in Genesis and Psalm 2. The psalm seems to anchor the homeless Levite priesthood in Jerusalem, where Abraham's friend, King (and Priest) Melchizedek, had offered gifts of bread and wine to Abraham's God. 
Some Jewish Christians, well-versed in their traditional religion, must have been astonished at this writer’s artistic liberty. He suggested that the priesthood of Melchizedek had remained like a forgotten spiritual presence in Jerusalem for hundreds of years. But a Roman army demolished the temple and dispersed the Levites in 70 AD. With that catastrophe the Jewish priesthood disappeared and has never been reinstituted. The Order of Melchizedek fell to Jesus.
The Author’s invention was not totally outlandish; changing times always call for reimagining traditional beliefs and practices. But Jesus as priest according to the order of Melchizedek certainly stretched the envelope. Until this time Saint Paul and the Evangelists had not given much thought to the priesthood of Jesus. He was the Messiah and Son of God; they were certainly titles enough. Jesus death and resurrection demonstrated his messianic authority, not to mention his ministry of healing.
But, inspired by the Holy Spirit, the Author of Hebrews also saw the restored priesthood in the person of Jesus -- and in HIs Church. We do not simply follow Jesus as sheep with their Shepherd or disciples of the Master. We are also the Priestly People before the altar of sacrifice; our High Priest speaks for us, offering our sacrifice and bestowing blessings.

We ascend with him into the Heavenly Holy of Holies to offer sacrifice before the Divine Presence of the Father. We enter with enormous confidence because we are the Body of Christ; he has gathered us into himself, recreating us as worthy by his worth. 

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain!”

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.