16 May 2017

The mystery of the Ascension

The mystery of Jesus' Ascension from the Mount of Olives

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The memory of Jesus is particularly linked to the Mount of Olives, on whose summit the Christian tradition commemorates the Ascension of Christ.

Fr. Alessandro Coniglio,ofm
Studium Biblicum franciscanum
“About the mystery of Ascension, we already know the geographic and temporal coordinates, thanks to two pieces of the new testament which refer to two passages of the Old Testament.”

(Luke 24:51-52)

<......he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.....
Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day's journey away.>
(Acts 1: 9-12)

Fr. Alessandro Coniglio, ofm
Studium Biblicum Franciscanum
“These are the two coordinates. We only know from the Acts of the Apostles that 40 days have passed since the resurrection of Jesus until He ascends to heaven from the mountain called Olivet.”

Fr. Alessandro Coniglio, ofm
Studium Biblicum Franciscanum
"Why exactly 40 days and why the Mount of Olives? In the Bible, 40 days is an often repeated expression; but it is particularly linked to some important times in which man prepares himself to meet with God, or in which God reveals himself or reveals His will to men.
We can see this example by taking a look at Moses. In the Old Testament: Exodus-Chapter 24 and Chapter 34, it is said that Moses spent 40 days in Mount Sinai to receive from God the tables of the law and the description of how the shrine should be made.
The same thing was said about the prophet Elijah, that when he went to Horeb, towards Sinai, he ate mysterious food that gave him the strength to walk from Israel to Sinai, for 40 days and 40 nights."

Fr. Alessandro Coniglio, ofm
Studium Biblicum Franciscanum
"Why did Jesus choose to be with his disciples for 40 days after his resurrection? Because he was about to give them the new law.
In the 40 days in which Jesus spends time with the apostles, He explains to them the new covenant, the new tables of law, which are no longer written on stone, but in the hearts of men. And the Apostles, after 40 days, will have to preach to the whole world, the new law that Jesus will give them before ascending into heaven, as the end of the Gospel of Mark recounts. Jesus will command them to announce His works, especially his Passion, Death and Resurrection, to all people and to baptize them in this mystery, so that everyone is saved in this new law that Jesus gave to humanity.”

(Ez 11: 23)

Fr. Alessandro Coniglio, ofm
Studium Biblicum Franciscanum
"In the Acts of the Apostles, Luke, the Evangelist may have in mind this passage of Ezekiel when he says that the ascension of Jesus takes place on the Mount of Olives. The glory of God has abandoned the temple. When? At Jesus' death, all evangelists tell us that the veil of the temple was torn in two. Therefore, somehow, this is a actual sign to indicate that the glory of God is no longer in the temple, that the glory of God rests on the body of Jesus who dies and this glory is just what gives life back to His dead body on the day of the resurrection.
40 days later, the glory that inhabits the resurrected body of Jesus will rest on the apostles on the Mount of Olives."

This holy place was revered in the first centuries, it was home to a Constantinian basilica, then towards the end of the 4th century, the wealthy Mathematician Poemiah made another great basilica rich in mosaics and precious marbles, in the same area where the Ascension occurred. Destroyed in the VI century, it was later rebuilt and expanded by crusaders. This building was also overthrown with the victory of Saladin and the place, with the inevitable traces of the story still preserved, became Muslim property to this day.

Fr. Alessandro Coniglio, ofm
Studium Biblicum Franciscanum
"The ascension of Jesus does not indicate so much a local movement, a translation from one place to another ... since the heavens in which God dwells, not the heavens we know, indicate the world of God, the heavenly world, the divine world in which Jesus enters so that His glory is no longer tied to a place or to a people and His glory could be accessible to all believers in him. All people who believe in Jesus can now experience this glory.”

The sanctuary was covered with a dome in the 13th century , although originally it was opened to the sky. Today, the crusader building preserves, though transformed, the octagonal chapel that would indicate the precise place from which Jesus ascended into heaven.

Fr. Alessandro Coniglio, ofm
Studium Biblicum Franciscanum
"A pilgrim who comes here and looks at the sky of Jerusalem, when he returns to his country and looks at the sky from his home, can have the same experience of the presence of the glory of God who no longer lives in the Temple of Jerusalem, no longer dwells in the midst of a particular people but is with every man who, looking at the sky, comes into contact with Jesus ascended into heaven."