Risen and Ascended

Where, then, in all my spreading world is Jesus Christ, risen and glorified? When the cloud received him out of our sight, what distance did he go? However far I take him, His risen being is no part of our interlocked system of natural forces, whether far or near. He is nowhere in our world, but neither is he outside it, for to place him outside it is only to place him in the fringes of it. Where then is he?

The only way to find Heaven is to begin from Heaven. Jesus in his glorious manhood is the heart of Heaven, as each of us is the heart and centre of our visible world. He is assured of his world as each of us is assured of ours—by the vigour of his existence; and as the acts of his life are more intense and wakeful than ours, he has less reason than the best employed of us, ever to take it for a dream. Even less than ours is his life locked within his breast; radiating through lines of heavenly interchange his soul knows what is next to him, blessed saints whose society is the place of his existence; and on and on, without failure or weakening of sight, his eyes embrace a universe of spirits, as many as the stars we see; without any thinning or flattening of sound he may converse with the distant as with the near, and receive from everyone a voice, expressing in unique and personal colour the glory and the love of God.

At first it may seem that we have two universes, spreading on independent planes and nowhere touching at a single point: Christ’s universe of spirit, ours of natural forces. Yet, thinking further, we may see that while it is impossible to place Heaven in the world, it is impossible not to place the world in Heaven. If Christ’s knowledge is spiritual as ours is physical, he knows us, for we also are spirits, though in fleshly bodies. He knows us, indeed, by that special fellow-feeling of a creature for its kind, which makes hearts tuned in the same scale to sound in unison, for‘ he took not on him the angelic kind, he took the seed of Abraham.’ If, then, he hears our voices and thinks our thoughts as fast as we can form them, he feels also in our fingers and looks through our eyes; he lives out along the lines of our vision, and our sun, moon and stars are his. By sympathy Heaven grafts the world into itself, and roots our universe in its own heart.

Jesus Christ, then, lives in the same world with us, and we in the same Heaven with him, and it is in what passes between him and us that our salvation lies. It is not merely that he exists, and I exist. We coexist, and coexistence implies mutual influence. Even in the physical world it is impossible for two things to coexist, though at the extreme opposite limits of the universe, without affecting each other. Everything plays a part in the environment of anything. What does nothing to us is clean out of our world; it provides us with no clue for suspecting its existence. The world of persons, even as common sense acknowledge sit, offers an analogy. That strange corporate force, the Western European mind, is a resultant of individuals in multitude, and every one of us, in however minute proportion, goes to colour or intensify or dilute it. And when we come to smaller personal worlds where each one counts for more, who is to estimate what we do to one another by coexisting? How, by being what we are, and without the least intention, we infect and heal, encourage and depress, poison and purify the people about us, and receive from them a reciprocal influence?

Balaam, the old magician in the Book of Numbers, was credited with such a power that those whom he blessed were blessed, and those whom he cursed were cursed. Hemmed in and threatened by the God of Israel, he got a wholesome fear of uttering spells outside the direct line of God’s revealed will. What frightens me is not the magic which I may be tempted, like Balaam, wilfully to utter, but what flows from me unheeded and is beyond my power to shut off. God forbids me, as he forbade Balaam, to curse whom he has not cursed, or to defy whom he has not defied. But the defiance and the cursing issue from me without a word said, and darken the air. If God is to be obeyed in this, he must bestow what he demands, he must make in me a pure and loving heart.

Heaven lives by its own laws; we have to live by the laws of earth and by the laws of Heaven too, and, in particular, so to act within the prescriptions of earthly law, that the laws of Heaven may take effect. In Heaven mind touches mind and love touches love, and by such contact the blessed know one another. On earth also these touches take place, but largely unperceived by both parties. When Jesus knew that the woman had been healed by the border of his garment, it was felt by those present as a miracle, in which the laws of Heaven rather than of earth had taken effect; for Jesus had not been touched—fingers on a hem swinging loose make no impress on the wearer’s body. It was Christ’s spirit which felt the touch of faith. What happened in the woman was mixed, part earth and part Heaven. It was heavenly that her faith should lay hold of divine virtue; it was earthly to lay hold of it in a physical sign, the border of a garment.

From Lord I believe by Austin Farrer (1955), edited by Arthur Middleton