FRIDAY AFTER THE ASCENSION
ON THE LESSONS WE ARE TO LEARN FROM THE ASCENSION OF OUR LORD
Consider first, that as we ought to imitate the resurrection of the Lord by a spiritual resurrection from the death of sin to the life of grace, so we must also imitate the ascension of our Lord by a spiritual ascension into heaven, and by dwelling there in spirit with him; that, as we hope one day to ascend thither after him in effect, we may learn the way by ascending after him every day in affection. Our Lord has told us that where our treasure is there our heart shall also be. Our treasure is that which we love the most and the best of all things; now, if this be Christ, as it ought to be, as he is ascended into heaven, our treasure is in heaven; and therefore our heart should follow its treasure by ascending after him in spirit into heaven, and by fixing there its abode with its be loved. O happy ascension of love, which teaches the soul to find in some measure a heaven upon earth, and interiorly to have always her conversation in heaven, whatever occupation or company she may he exteriorly engaged in upon earth.
Consider 2ndly, that in order to he qualified to ascend after Christ our Lord into heaven, we must first get rid of our vices and criminal passions, for none of these can he admitted into that blessed abode; there is no room for them there. The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life, can have no place in heaven; all their pursuits are earthly – instead of carrying the soul upwards towards heaven, they press her down towards hell. They are all slaves to Satan; they bind the poor soul fast in chains; they will not suffer her to follow after Christ; they are his mortal enemies. See then, my soul, if none of these have dominion over thee; see if pride, avarice, passion, or lust have not more influence on thee, to keep thee afar off from Christ in this region of sin and death, than the love of God has to draw thee up to heaven after him. O beg of thy Lord, through his triumphant ascension, by which ‘ascending on high he led captivity captive; he gave gifts to men,’ Eph. iv. 8, that he would break all thy bonds asunder, which keep thee from ascending after him, and by the precious gift of his grace set thee at liberty to fly up wards with the wings of the dove, till thou canst come to repose in him and with him.
Consider 3rdly, that the soul can never be rightly qualified to fly up towards heaven by this spiritual ascension, as long as her wings, that is, her affections, are not disengaged. For as the bird cannot fly if its wings be either entangled or daubed over with bird-lime, so the soul cannot fly if her affections are either entangled in the nets of the world, or defiled with the bird-lime of a misplaced love. So that it is not enough for a soul that desires to ascend to heaven after Christ to be free from downright lust or other scandalous excesses and passions; but she must also be disengaged in her affections from every love of person or thing that ties her down as it were to the earth; that captivates her thoughts with solicitudes and perplexities or otherwise takes off her heart from the love of God. All such love as this disqualifies the soul from flying towards heaven: it keeps her far below, grovelling in the mire. Not let her flatter herself that her affections are innocent, because the object is not of itself criminal; for let the object be what it will, it is a crime to prefer it to God, or to love it so as to forfeit for its sake the love of God.
Conclude to be jealous of thyself; how thou placest thy affections here upon earth, lest thou hinder thy flight towards thy true treasure in heaven: ‘my love is my weight,’ says St. Augustine, ‘that way am I carried, whithersoever I am carried.’