1)What has happened for the last 40 days? Everything prior to the Resurrection was confirmed.
“Beloved, the days which passed between the Lord’s resurrection and his ascension were by no means uneventful; during them great sacramental mysteries were confirmed, great truths revealed. In those days the fear of death with all its horrors was taken away, and the immortality of both body and soul affirmed. It was then that the Lord breathed on all his apostles and filled them with the Holy Spirit; and after giving the keys of the kingdom to blessed Peter, whom he had chosen and set above all the others, he entrusted him with the care of his flock….
Through the whole period between the resurrection and ascension, God’s providence was at work to instill this one lesson into the hearts of the disciples, to set this one truth before their eyes, that our Lord Jesus Christ, who was truly born, truly suffered, and truly died, should be recognized as truly risen from the dead. The blessed apostles together with all the others had been intimidated by the catastrophe of the cross, and their faith in the resurrection had been uncertain; but now they were so strengthened by the evident truth that when their Lord ascended into heaven, far from feeling any sadness, they were filled with great joy” (From a sermon by Saint Leo the Great - Wednesday of the Sixth Week of Easter).
2)The meaning of the Ascension according to Josef Ratzinger:
“What, then, is the meaning of Christ’s `ascension into heaven’? It expresses our belief that in Christ human nature, the humanity in which we all share, has entered into the inner life of God in a new and hitherto unheard of way. It means that man has found an everlasting place in God. Heaven is not a place beyond the stars, but something much greater, something that requires far more audacity to assert: Heaven means that man now has a place in God.
The basis for this assertion is the interpenetration of humanity and divinity in the crucified and exalted man Jesus. Christ, the man who is in God and eternally one with God, is at the same time God’s abiding openness to all human beings. Thus, Jesus himself is what we call `heaven;’ heaven is not a place but a person, the person of him in whom God and man are forever and inseparable one. And we go to heaven and enter into heaven to the extent that we go to Jesus Christ and enter into him. In this sense, `ascension into heaven’ can be something that takes place in our everyday lives” (Dogma and Preaching Franciscan Herald Press 62-63).
3)The Humanity of Christ is dynamized by the Esse (the act of existence) of the Person of the Logos.“The eternal esse (act of existence) of the Son of God which is identified with the divine nature becomes the Esse of the man (Jesus) inasmuch as the human nature is assumed by the Son of God into the unity of his person” (Summa Theologiae III, 17, 2 ad 2). Therefore, we experience heaven by experiencing the Person of Christ through the sacraments of Baptism (prayer) and Eucharist (Bread).
4)The Major Obstacle to the knowledge of heaven, and therefore, Christ, is practical atheism due to the failure to experience Christ by the living faith of self-gift:
“But the time has now come: this aspect of the Devil’s temptation [“Ye shall be as gods”] has found the historical context that suits it. Perhaps we are experiencing the highest level of tension between the Word and the anti-Word in the whole of human history. Alienation thought of in that way implies not only denial of the God of the covenant but also of the very idea of God: denial of his existence and at the same time the postulate – and in a sense the mperative – of liberation from the very idea of God in order to bolster man… “Feuerbach’s book on religion: `In place of love of God we ought to acknowledge love of man as the only true religion; in place of belief in God we ought to expand man’s belief in himself, in his own strength, the belief that humanity’s destiny is dependent not on a being higher than humanity but on humanity itself, that man’s only demon is man himself… but that similarly man’s only god is man himself’” (K. Wojtyla, Sign of Contradiction 34-35).
5)Therefore, to overcome the “dictatorship of relativism” (Sermon by Cardinal Ratzinger at the opening of the Conclave), we must experience Christ:Whittaker Chambers on prayer:
“As I continued to pray raggedly, prayer ceased to be an awkward and self-conscious act. It became a daily need to which I looked forward. If, for any reason, I were deprived of it, I was distressed as if I had been deprived of some life necessity, like water. I cannot say I changed. There tore through me a transformation with the force of a river, which, dammed up and diverted for a lifetime, bursts its way back to its true channel. I became what I was. I ceased to be what I was not.
What I had been fell from me like dirty rags. The rags that fell from me were not only Communism. What fell was the whole web of the materialist modern mind – the luminous shroud which it has spun about the spirit of man, paralyzing in the name of rationalism the instinct of his soul and its birthright in that mystery on which mere knowledge falters and shatters at every step. If I had rejected only Communism, I would have rejected only one political expression of the modern mind, the most logical because the most brutal in enforcing the myth of man’s material perfectibility, the most persuasive because the least hypocritical in announcing its purpose and forcibly removing the obstacles to it. If I had rejected only Communism, I should have changed my faith; I would not have changed the force that made it possible. I should have remained within that modern intellectual mood which gives birth to Communism, and denies the soul in the name of the mind, and the soul’s salvation in suffering in the name of man’s salvation here and now. What I sensed without being able to phrase it was what has since been phrased with the simplicity of an axiom: `Man cannot organize the world for himself without God; without God man can only organize the world against man.’ The gas ovens of Buchenwald and the Communist execution cellars exist first within our minds.
But the torrent that swept through me in 1937 and the first months of 1938 swept my spirit clear to discern one truth: ‘Man without mysticism is a monster.’” (W. Chambers, Witness 82.).