Tag Archives: eternal rest

The Feast of the Ascension


I was in the local Barnes and Noble Bookstore recently and in the religion section noticed a good number of books on heaven. Most of these, as far as I can judge, are accounts of people who say they’ve been there or just about and are reporting on their experience. Heaven’s an item of interest today.

The Feast of the Ascension is our basic book on heaven. Look to Jesus Christ who promises us a home there. The Ascension is part of the Easter mystery. On Easter Sunday, Jesus rose from the dead and for forty days, the scriptures say, he ate and drank and met with his disciples to build up their faith. Then, he ascended into heaven.

Rising from the dead was not the end of his story. He rose from the dead but did continue life on earth. He did not rise like those whom he himself raised from the dead, like Lazarus whom he called from the tomb and the little girl and the dead son of a widow of Naim. They went back to ordinary life. Jesus did not.

No, after he rose from the dead, he ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father, our creed says. He entered another world beyond this one, a world greater than this one. There, from a place of great power, he extends his promise and power to us here on earth.

Because he was to ascend, he told Mary Magdalene in the garden after rising, “Do not hold me, I must ascend to my father and your father.” Jesus had to ascend to heaven, to his home and ours.

The mysterious way Jesus appeared to his disciples after his resurrection points to the impermanence of this life and the finality of a heavenly life. His risen appearances are brief; he appears in a veiled way. He appears to his disciples mainly to assure them that he lives and to give them the promise of life eternal.

Why don’t we know more about heaven? It’s a mystery we hope for rather than understand. “Eye has not seen, or ear heard, or has it entered the human mind, what God has prepared for those who love him.” Heaven is our place of rest, the final place we’re meant to be, and so we pray for those who die: “Eternal rest grant to them, O Lord.”

Rest in Peace

Two friends of mine have died and their funerals will take place in the next few days. “Eternal rest grant to them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen.”

What do we mean when we pray that those who die “rest in peace?”

The Book of Genesis says that God “rested” on the seventh day after completing the work of creation. God’s rest was a time of delight in what was done, and so we wish that those who die experience delight for the life they led on earth and the new life they share with God. The Letter to the Hebrews, read in the last weeks of January, also speaks of the rest of delight that those who go before us share with Jesus, our High Priest.

That doesn’t mean they will forget those they leave behind or the world they no longer live in. When Jesus rose from the dead he entered into his rest, but his work was not done on earth. God’s Kingdom must still come. As our High Priest, who shared our human life and its weakness and death, he continues to intercedes for us on earth. He is a compassionate and loving  High Priest.

Like Jesus, those whom God calls into his rest still love this world and those still journeying here. They don’t forget us. Resting in God, they’re restless  till God’s kingdom come. Given clearer sight as they commune with God, they accompany us on our way.  They’re in blessed communion with us, a communion of saints.