Friday, May 10, 2024

Whither did Christ Ascend? -Jacobus de Voragine

As to the...question...whither He ascended, let us note that He ascended above all the heavens, as it is written in the epistle to the Ephesians: "He that descended is the same also that ascended above all the heavens, that He might fill all things." For in sooth there are several heavens above which He ascended, namely 

1. the material,
2. the rational,
3. the intellectual,
4. and the supersubstantial. 

1. The material heaven is manifold, since there are the aërial, the ethereal, the Olympian, the heaven of fire, the heaven of the stars, the crystaline, and the empyrean.

2. The rational heaven is the just man, and he is so called for several reasons:

  1. first, by reason of the indwelling of God, because as Heaven is the seat and dwelling of God, as we read in Isaias, Heaven is My throne (Is. 61:1), so likewise is the soul of the just man, wherefore the Book of Wisdom says that the soul of the just is the seat of wisdom;
  2. second, by reason of holy conversation, because holy men, by their conversation and desire, ever dwell in Heaven, wherefore the apostle says: "Our conversation is in heaven" (Phil. 3:20);
  3. third, by reason of continuous operation, because as the heavens are continuously in motion, so also holy men move without ceasing in holy works.

3. The intellectual heaven is the angel; and the angels are called heaven because they are like to the highest Heaven by reason of their dignity and excellence, whereof Dionysius, in the Book of the Names of God says: "These godlike minds have a being above all other beings and a life above all other things that live, and their intelligence and knowledge are above sense and reason, and more than any other being they desire the beautiful and the good, and participate therein."

4. The supersubstatial heaven is equality in the divine excellence, whence Christ came and whither He returned. Of this heaven the Psalm says: "His going out is from the end of Heaven, and His circuit even to the end thereof." Now Christ ascended above all the other heavens, unto this same supersubstantial heaven.

1. We know that He ascended above all the material heavens, from the words of the Psalm: "Thy magnificence is elevated above the heavens." (Ps. 8:2) And He mounted above all the material heavens and into the empyrean not as Elias, who went up in a fiery chariot into the sublunar region but did not go beyond it, but was translated to an earthly paradise, which is as high as the sublunar region but not higher. In this empyrean Heaven Christ dwells, and this is the especial and proper dwelling place of Christ and the angels and the saints, and the dwelling well befits the dwellers. For this Heaven excels above the others in dignity, eternity, location, and extent: and therefore it is the fitting dwelling place of Christ, Who exels above all the rational and intellectual heavens by His dignity, His eternity, His immutability, and the extent of His power. And fittingly the angels and the saints dwell therein, for this heaven is uniform, immobile, perfect in luminosity, immense in capacity; and the angels and saints were uniform in good works, immobile in love, luminous in faith and knowledge, capacious in receiving the Holy Ghost.

2. And that Christ ascended above all the rational heavens, that is above all the saints, is clear from the words of the Canticle: "Behold He cometh leaping upon the mountains, and skipping over the hills," (Song of Solomon 2:8) for the angels are called mountains, and the saints hills.

3. And He ascended above all the intellectual heavens, namely the angels, for the Psalm says: "Who makest the clouds Thy chariot; Who walkest upon the wings of the winds." (Ps. 103:3)

4. And that He ascended to the supersubstatial Heaven, that is to the equality of God, is seen from the words of Saint Mark: "And the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into Heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God." (Mark 16:19) For the right hand of God is coequality with God. Thus Saint Bernard says: "To my Lord, in a singular manner, the Lord promised and gave to sit at the right hand of His glory, for as much as he was equal in glory, in essence consubstantial, like by His generation, in majesty not inferior, in eternity not posterior."

Jacobus de Voragine, The Golden Legend: Part One, Longmans, Green and Co.: London, 1941, 290-292.

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