I'm in a highly theological mood today as I meditate on the significance of the Ascension of our Savior Jesus Christ.
It occurs to me that the Nativity and the Ascension are bookends. The bodily ascension of Jesus Christ, God Incarnate, completes what was begun in his Nativity. God became as we are so that we might become as God is. An Orthodox hymn says, "Today has God come down to earth, and man gone up to heaven."
The Incarnation, in its fullness, is God's supreme act of deliverance, which restores us to communion with God. But more is happening here than fixing something that was broken. Humanity is also advanced to a new level. There is a new creation!
In Jesus Christ, fully human and fully divine, we are able to see the possibilities of human nature and the implications of personhood, lived in the image and likeness of God. We are not only saved from our sins, we are saved for that life - eternal life, the life God lives.Medieval theologians made a distinction between the image and likeness of God. The former referred to a natural, innate resemblance to God and the latter referred to the moral attributes that were lost in the fall. In the Incarnation, those moral attributes are realized in the first perfect human, Jesus Christ. His earthly ministry is the beginning of a new creation and we are the beneficiaries. "For as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ" (I Cor. 15:22).
The saving work of the Incarnate One, including his being taken bodily into the heavenly realm, is more than a reversal of the fall and restoration of our original state of innocence. Joined to him in Baptism, we live his life as new creatures through whom God's will may be done "on earth as it is in heaven."
Thou hast raised our human nature on the clouds to God's right hand:
there we sit in heavenly places, there with thee in glory stand.
Jesus reigns, adored by angels; Man with God is on the throne;
mighty Lord, in thine ascension we by faith behold our own.
Christopher Wordsworth (1807-1884)
P.S. You may have difficulty accepting the Ascension as an historical event. It does sound far-fetched in light of scientific knowledge. However, recent advances in scientific knowledge have caused us to think of matter and energy in different terms. For example, new science tells us that our bodies are made up of the dust and ashes of stars that burned out billions of years ago. If that is the case, the Incarnation and all the mysteries associated with it may not seem so far-fetched after all.