ILLUSTRATION AND COMMENTARY BY JAMES TISSOT
FROM HIS LIFE OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST
Acts of the Apostles, Chap. 1:9-12:
“And when he had said these things, while they looked on, he was raised up: and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they were beholding him going up to heaven, behold two men stood by them in white garments.
“Who also said: Ye men of Galilee, 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. Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount that is called Olivet, which is nigh Jerusalem, within a sabbath day’s journey.”
Tissot’s Commentary: “The Ascension is not merely the personal glorification of Jesus, it is also an event of the last importance to the human race. It is the completion of the Creation, interrupted by the fall of the first man. The design of God in creating man was to make of him the conscious and free agent of his own salvation, the sharer in the divine bliss and glory. Man by his sin had hindered the realization of this plan, but he could not frustrate it. By the Resurrection of Christ we see man set free from death and restored to his first hopes of eternal life, but his salvation is not yet completed. By the Ascension God permits man, redeemed through Christ, to share with Him in the divine glory, and thus realizes in Him the original idea of the Creation. Only thus can that idea achieve completion.
“Not yet, however, is the end of all things. The Ascension not only complete the work of our redemption through Christ, it lays the foundation of its realization in every one of us who is of Christ. In this consists its importance for the Church. There remains now but two promises to be fulfilled the sending of the Holy Spirit, which shall continuously supply the Church on earth with the grace of the risen Saviour, and that last prophecy uttered in the Judgement Hall of Caiaphas “Hereafter shall ye see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power and coming in the clouds of heaven”, a coming which will summon the elect to share the Ascension of the Master and to become partakers of His glory, even as Jesus prayed in the sublime petition offered up on the eve of His death, ”Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory which thou has given me; for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world”. It is not for us to dwell now on this last subject, these final chords of the divine symphony. We have been relating the life on earth of Jesus, that life ends for us in the apotheosis of the Ascension. The cloud which “received Christ from sight” is like the curtain which falls at the close of a drama. We will not attempt to raise it, but let us each and all withdraw to “ponder”, as the Virgin did, these things in our hearts.”
Image “The Ascension as seen from below” (1886-1894) by James Tissot. Illustration for The Life of Our Lord Jesus Christ, at the Brooklyn Museum.