Ascension-Eve (05/20/2020)


Heart-Eyes, I do not cease giving thanks for you, making remembrance [of you] at the time of my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, might give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him, [and give] enlightened eyes of your heart, so that you might know what is the hope of his calling… (vv. 16, 17, 18a).

Salvation consists in beholding the heart of God through the eyes man’s circumcised heart in Baptism; heart to heart. Baptism cuts away the fleshes binding; the released heart becoming the chief organ for sight and faith in the Kingdom.

St. Paul urges us to employ “the eyes of [our] heart[s]” for knowledge of God. By heart-eyes we see Jesus the expositor of the Father’s will that we “love one another” as he loves us (Jn. 13:34; 15:12, 17). Wisdom teaches us the atoning love of the cross delivered in word leading to heaven’s flesh and blood Supper in this time of the Ascension.

By heart-eyes Christians aspire to the mind of Christ the exact imprint of the invisible God. Instituting his Supper, Jesus summarized, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (14:9b).

To behold Jesus crucified and handing-over the Spirit for his church, sees heavenly things with new eyes, what is seen by the Father. For St. John, Jesus’ lifting on the cross is God’s glory and the beginning of Jesus’ Ascension.

We do not look to our own hearts for enlightenment. Instead, spiritual sight is through gifted heart-eyes of the Spirit, like St. Paul who received the HS in something like scales falling-off his eyes (Acts 9:18). Truth, knowledge, and wisdom comes from outside, solely the gift of God.

This Ascension-eve we are directed to behold the new things and wisdom of the Resurrection. Formerly, both our flesh and the Law of Moses were a veil over our hearts toward God; but, in Baptism, God’s atonement in his Son cuts away the cloud of sin that blinds hearts, to reveal the Father’s heart made tender at the sight of Jesus’ sin-torn flesh.

On the Day of Ascension, Jesus “parted” the Mt. of Olives out of the world’s sight; angels directed his church henceforth to behold Jesus’ ascent on clouds of glory with heart-eyes.

The Ascension celebrates Jesus’ return to the Father’s bosom (cf. Lk. 16:23); enthroned, the One worthy to open heaven’s eternal Scroll (Rev. 5:2b, 3, 4, 9) for revealing the Father (Jn. 5:37-40).

The “Binding of Isaac” (Gen. 22:9-14) and Parable of the “Prodigal Son” (Lk. 15:11 ff.; cf. Lk. 24:45) direct our heart-eyes. Each speaks of two fathers on the loss a beloved son. The death of a child is a terrible thing; worse yet is the loss of a child’s affection and obedience.

The binding of Isaac (sometimes called “the sacrifice of Abraham”) is pure pathos; the world cannot comprehend it. God commanded Abraham kill his only son. It is all the reader can do not to curse God at the “outrage”; many do, elevating human hearts above God, indignant in a flesh-bound simpatico of faux “righteousness”.

Fallen men are killers. Adam chose death and curse over life and blessing (cf. Deut. 30:19) condemning future generations. The sons of men followed suit; beginning with Cain’s murder of Abel. We habitually deal-out death and harm without the least ability to restore lives taken or mangled in anger or careless self-love.

The Resurrection and Ascension of Christ opens to us the meaning that the Lord “kills and brings to life” (Dt. 32:39; 1 Sam. 2:6; 2 Kgs. 5:7); the knowledge and wisdom imparted to Abraham through heart-eyes. By faith Abraham knew the eternal character of God to be the author of Life and “God of the living” (Mk. 12:27; Lk. 20:38).

Abraham discerned in God’s command that out of death God is consistent in himself to issue new life. Likewise, Isaac knowing his father’s love also beheld the heart of his father’s God, who circumcises bound, dead, and dying hearts with a sacrificial blade.

Isaac’s faith directs our hearts to Jesus, the Lamb crucified from the foundation of the world, and to the Father’s will for the life of all men. Because our flesh-bound hearts are incapable of choosing anything but death and curse, God chose the death of his only Son for us. In Baptism’s gift of faith, we are joined into God’s choice. United with Jesus’ faith toward the Father, we know our heavenly Father’s heart for our Life in Christ; “And this is eternal life, that they know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent” (Jn. 17:3).

The parable of the Prodigal Son is a revelation of Adam; a son who perversely despised his father, even demanding a share of his fabulous material fortune, completing the estrangement. The father does the unthinkable; he accedes to the demand. At first blush the father’s acquiescence appears to make him complicit in the son’s loss; the prodigal was digging a hole, the father provided the shovel.

But the father’s indulgence reveals his character and wisdom. Only in the son’s deepest distress was the Prodigal able to perceive his father’s love. The father is broken hearted at his son’s rejection of hearth and home; still he did not respond in kind; nor did he accept the child’s loss as inevitable, but waited in longsuffering love.

One day the Prodigal looked-up from the pit he had dug to imagine a horizon; if not reconciliation, at least to return as servant. By his own lights, the son from a world-bound heart and experience could not conceive the father’s mercy, love, and forgiveness as deeper than his material wealth or the hole he had dug.

The heart of the father is disclosed in a love beyond worldly experience. On the son’s return home, the father vests him with the robes of household office, the father’s own authority for mercy and forgiveness in the village.

Jesus is Isaac who received the sacrificial blade on the altar constructed by Abraham on Mt. Moriah. The Father did not spare his Son; and Jesus trusted him to open through his flesh the hidden tenderness of God’s heart for man. St. John observes, “We love because he first loved us” (1 Jn. 4:19).

There is nothing for the Prodigal, you and I, to do but wear the garments of God’s household in the new creation, sons and daughters in priestly witness to the love of God in Christ.

Today’s texts from the Gospel and Acts find the disciples looking upward in hope; from below their eyes follow Jesus’ ascent to heaven’s horizon. Two angelic persons express curiosity at the disciple’s unknowing gaze. Jesus’ Resurrection and Ascension are comprehended by heart-eyes, the church’s Eucharistic perspective of presence. With the Ascension Scripture is unsealed for beholding our homecoming in union with the Life of Jesus.

The sight of the Father’s heart is difficult to bear; many refuse to look upon it. It remains of our baptismal circumcision to bear seeing the cost of Love; the Father’s bleeding heart at the water of the Spirit and the blood of his only Son (1 Jn. 5:8) extended in unsealed revelation of Scroll and Sacrament. Amen.

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