The women were standing there gazing into the empty tomb. While they were perplexed about this. Suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed there faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead?’
While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, ‘Men of
why do you stand looking up toward heaven?’
I stumbled upon a text from Hans Urs von Balthasar about the ascension, which helps bring this together, as he always does, really penetrates deeply into the mystery. He says, “In the ascension, God’s earthly image”—that is, Jesus—“is seized and drawn up definitively to the Father, and the disciples stand, blessed and full of longing, staring after the one who has disappeared into God. The Transfigured One took their hearts with Him up to God and they will never again feel altogether at home in this temporal world. For that part of the world they most loved is now with God. And this is why everything that they see on earth becomes transparent to heaven. The Holy Spirit, which the Son sends to them from heaven, kindles in them the fire of longing in which every image on earth becomes radiant for heaven, for the everlasting life which springs up from triune love.”
Now the disciples, as it says here, stood staring after the one who disappeared into God. So the angels had to come down and wake them up and say, what are you doing, staring up into heaven? He’s going to come back the same way that He left! And so they went back to the temple and worshipped Him and praised Him with joy.
That’s what we’re doing here, too. We are gathering at the temple, worshipping and praising Christ who has ascended to heaven, and at the same time we hear that voice of the angel that says, He’s going to come back. Every time we come to church to worship, part of what we’re doing is waiting, looking for Him to come back, and worshipping Him who has gone and has promised to come back. We stand both in body and in spirit, longing for the return of the Son of Man.