"The Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up to heaven, and sits at the right hand of God." St. Mark, 16:19.
"He ascended into heaven, sits at the right hand of God." Creed.
In the very first book of the Bible we read the thrilling, inspiring story of Joseph of Egypt. We read how his brothers jealously betrayed him, how he was sold into the service of Pharao, how he won the favor of the king, and how he explained a dream which prepared the Egyptian people for seven years of famine. As a reward for his honesty, ability and devotion King Pharao made Joseph next to himself in royal power, saying to him: "Seeing God hath shown thee all that thou hast said, can I find one wiser and one like unto thee?
"Thou shalt be over my house, and at the commandment of thy mouth all the people shall obey: only in the kingly throne will I be above thee.
"And again Pharao said to Joseph: 'Behold, I have appointed thee over the whole land of Egypt.'
"And he (ook his ring from his own hand, and gave it into his hand: and he put upon him a robe of silk, and put a chain of gold about his neck.
"And he made him go up into his second chariot, the crier proclaiming that all should bow their knee before him, and that they should know he was made governor over the whole land of Egypt.'
"And the king said to Joseph: 'I am Pharao; without thy commandment no man shall move hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.'
"And he turned his name, and called him in the Egyptian tongue, The Savior of the world." Genesis, 41:39-45.
Something similar to thls happened to our Divine Savior when He ascended into heaven. In the heavenly court Christ is seated at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty. Joseph of old is a figure - a type - of Christ. Our Lord, too, was betrayed. Our Lord worked with His heavenly Father. Our Lord was truly the Savior of the world. As Pharao rewarded Joseph by making him ruler with himself, so God the Father rewarded Christ by seating our Lord at His right side. When we pray those words,... "Christ sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty," we mean that Christ, as God, is equal to the Father, and we mean that Christ, as man, is in the highest place in heaven.
When we say that Christ "sits" we do not mean any bodily posture or position. We do mean that Jesus, the Son of God, was given the position worthy of His dignity; He was equal to the Father. This was due Him as God. As man, Christ deserved the highest place in heaven, next to the Father.
The word "sit" signifies royal power. In the presence of kings everybody usually stands. Sitting is a position of rest, a position of contentment, a position of power. Sitting also implies a throne, the heavenly throne befitting the Kingship of the God-man.
The Bible also tells us that Christ sits "at the right hand of God." Really God has no hands; He is a pure spirit. But the expression "at the right hand" shows that Christ was seated in the place of honor, next in dignity to God the Father. As God, Christ has a throne equal in honor and power to the throne of His Father. As man, the throne of Christ is second and next to God's. As God and man Christ is above all creatures.
In some ways the relations between Pharao and Joseph were quite different from the relation between God the Father and God the Son. In this, however, they are alike, that just as Pharao made Joseph go up into his second chariot and receive the homage of all the people, so God the Father received Christ and placed Him at the right side, the position of power and honor.
As we follow our Lord this Ascension day to the very court of heaven, and look at Him, and think of Him, seated at the right hand of His heavenly Father, various feelings rise in our hearts. Our hope of heaven receives a new spurt of life. To know that the One whom we follow has entered into His glory, gives us renewed confidence that we too shall one day share in His glory. Nothing could be more encouraging to the good life He asks us to lead. Here below it is difficult, wearisome; there above we see the reward of it all.
Suppose God had not told us in Sacred Scripture that Jesus was seated at the right hand of the Father. Then virtue would be so much more difficult; the very word "virtue" would be empty and vain. Then the goods of this life would be everything to everyone. Empty and useless as they are, the baubles of earth would be our only concern. Without this article of the Creed, without the Ascension and all it implies, the passions of man would have no check, suicide and the asylum would be our only outlet, and society could seek a stop for its suffering only in the scaffold, the sword and the cemetery.
On the contrary, knowing with absolute certainty that Christ is enthroned in glory, bearing im mind the Ascension, and that He awaits us with a place prepared, we generously trade the goods of time for the goods of eternity. With the Ascension in mind we can attempt any and every virtue, any and every sacrifice. Gladly we pay the price of labor and pain. Today, Ascension day, a good life is sure of its reward, every good deed is sure of its return.
Ordinarily we should be sad at the departure of Christ. Instead we are glad - glad that He has received His reward, glad that now we can be certain of our own reward. May we be worthy to ascend with Him!
Adapted from Talks on the Creed
by Fr. Arthur Tonne, OFM (© 1946)