Homily for Ascension Day, 21st May, 2020 by Revd Peter van Breda

Dear Friends,

Through the Ascension deed of Christ, the Earth and Mankind, who were for long cycles of time separated from the divine worlds are once again re-united. Christ has taken us with him and raised us up into the world of the Father, into the heart of the world of spirit, but also into the visible elevated realm of the clouds. The paradise once lost is though not regained through the Ascension deed but rather a new picture and a new image for the future appears, it is the New Jerusalem. At the centre of this Holy City stands the One who triumphed in all spheres. He appears before us as the One clothed with the light of the sun. He has conquered the depths, He has secured the heights and He has filled the widths with unending love.

The realms that exist below us and above us and all around us are also infested by legions of evil beings. We regularly see that these pernicious beings working through us have no boundaries; no depravity too awful; there is no destructiveness that evil will not stoop to. Evil really does come up to meet us everywhere with shocking consequences that are often too painful to bear. We as a religious community are challenged earnestly to confront and to try to understand the aims of these evil forces. At present many people all over the world feel the presence of evil stalking the social life and the ultimate freedom of mankind. Others wonder what the higher meaning of this pandemic might be. Is it the irresponsible misconduct of human-beings that has brought on this disaster? Is nature out of sync with itself due to constant abuse and this disease has broken out as a result? The questions multiply mostly with no definitive answers appearing. It seems to me that we need to return again and again to an indication that Rudolf Steiner gives us, to become in all matters discriminatory in our reasoning. We need, as he suggests, to differentiate between what is really important and what is not important or not so important and then to follow this through accordingly in our way of life. This question has to be magnified in the time we are living in, what for instance will be important for us to take out of this dreadful health crisis? After all is said and done and when life returns to a comparative normality what will we bear with us, what will we have learned? Every illness even if we were fortunate enough not be infected carries within profound questions, some imponderable.

In more than one healing situation Christ says to the one who has been healed, ‘now go and show yourself to the priests’. Why would He say that; surely his healing on its own would be sufficient? We can take an example from our present situation. Thousands of people have succumbed to the Corona virus and have landed up in hospital very ill, so ill that many have also died. In the hospital setting doctors, nurses and carers have stood around their beds and done everything possible to save them from death. Patients often return back into society severely weakened and inwardly changed in many ways.

It is not always recognised that the medical team not alone but with the invisible aid of the Christ have rescued these people from the depths of earthly existence. But back home how does the person now better, find their way back into their families and society as a whole? We could re-phrase Christ’s words and say: go now and reunite and find yourself back into the community to which you are karmically connected. In our circles we’d want to embrace and welcome anybody who has been ill back into our midst. This is actually a profound healing step to becoming once again part of an empathetic community. There is also an additional step that belongs to every healing process. It is good for us to look back and ask ourselves and ponder, why did I have to suffer this illness, what is it telling me about my destiny? What is it also suggesting to those who stand around me? With severe illnesses we usually find ourselves lying prostrate in a bed often with little or no real day consciousness. After we have recovered, it is time to grow into an understanding and awareness about what has befallen us. In the case of a pandemic and even if we did not land in hospital, these two phases are still relevant. Not only are we called upon to deepen our understanding but also in time to bear fruit out of the experience of our illness or in this case this world malady.

It is through the Ascension of Christ and the Whitsun event of the Holy, healing Spirit that we are given manifold gifts with which to work and ultimately to transform the world into a better place. Christ has created a living bridge to the heavenly worlds along with the fullness of the Angelic world. They are not only present but available to us in all circumstances.

Sometimes folk have imagined that at the Ascension Christ indicates that He has fulfilled his task here on earth and has so to speak returned back into the world of the Father. Nothing could be further from the truth! Through his entrance into the sub-earthly world of the adversaries on Holy Saturday and then again forty days later his reaching up and expansion into the heights at Ascension, Christ renews and permeates both spheres. He pours his Risen being into the heights and secures it; we can still today lose touch with our roundedness and be drawn out of ourselves into illusion and fantasy and hysteria. Through his descent into the darkest depths He gives us the protection and means to deal with the powers of evil who rule in this realm with wicked deceit and suffocating hardening intent.

Ascension is the festival when we can re-unite and re-establish living bonds to the world above us which we may experience with wonder and reverence and similarly to recognise with deed-filled conscience the realm below us. This dark realm has a seed of redemption within it waiting for our activity. Last but certainly not least we can gaze out with heartfelt love into the widths of space and into the community of human beings. We will perceive not alone but with the eyes and guidance of the Christ.

What ought to happen will happen — and it must happen. Let us try to be so equal to this spiritual community of ours that insofar as it lies in us, what ought to happen, what must happen, shall happen through us. – Rudolf Steiner

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