Crucifixion and Ascension in the Modern World
By Tanis Helliwell
As Easter approaches I am thinking of the significance of Jesus’ crucifixion and ascension, its relevance to our modern world. This story is important, even if we are not Christians, as each of us will undergo ‘crucifixions’ on the path to enlightenment and Jesus illustrates what Spirit wants of us.
How we are crucified
To understand the crucifixion and ascension we need to put it in the context of Jesus’ entire story. In doing this we remember that he was beloved, not only by his disciples, but also by large numbers of individuals. He was well known as a spiritual teacher when he was arrested for his teachings, as they were a threat to the established religion of the time. There are predictable steps in our spiritual evolution that each of us needs to undergo and Jesus story exemplifies these steps. Each of us needs to become a master, like Jesus, of our external, material world and fulfil our personality’s destiny before we are called to fulfil our soul’s destiny in the inner spiritual world. We master the personality by doing well in our chosen work, buying houses, having successful relationships with others and being self-sufficient. During this time we may engage in mini-crucifixions, such as being fired or laid off from our work, losing loved ones to death or abandonment, and having a health crisis ourselves, or not receiving our heart’s desire. These mini-crucifixions do not seem so small at the time as our personality is very attached to being happy and happy for it means that it is surrounded by comfort and things it likes. The more things we are attached to and the deeper our attachment to them the more we will suffer, when we need to give these things up. This, for us, is our crucifixion.
Lessons of the Crucifixion
And give them up we have to do. Each of us will die, although our attachments to these comforts are our attempt to deny the reality of our own death and to prevent it from occurring. We erroneously think that if we eat the right food and exercise regularly that somehow we will not die. Oh I know, that intellectually we know that we will die, however emotionally we often do not live our life to allow this as THE fact. If we did, we would release our attachments as soon as we realized we had them and get on with dedicating our lives to Spirit and not to money, fame, being liked by others, entertainments and holidays as ways to make us safe from death. We witness in Jesus’ story that all of us need to release anything to which we are attached if we are to take the next spiritual step to ascend to Spirit. This includes our attachment to having anyone like or approve of us, as everyone abandoned Jesus during his trial. It means upholding the truth of who you are, as Jesus did, even when you are falsely accused. It means recognizing that you cannot always carry your cross and being grateful to the charity from others as they help you to carry it, as Jesus was when a stranger carried his cross for him. It also means detaching yourself even from your mother and children and significant others, as Jesus did when on the cross he asked one of his disciples to be the son to his mother. Lastly, we must forgive everyone who might knowingly, or unknowingly, have wronged us.
It is also essential that we realize that during our crucifixions that we might feel abandoned by God, even as Jesus did, when he said, “Father, why have you forsaken me?” Yet, Spirit, God, the Creator does not abandon us. During the crucifixion each of us must willingly surrender our personalities attachments and realize that each of us is given only the amount that Spirit feels we can do. We are set up to succeed, not to fail. It is the attachment that causes our unhappiness and not the object of our attachment. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with exercising, making money, having friends, and going on vacations. The problem results only if we desire these things as ways of being happy and are unhappy if we do not have them. We learn through these crucifixions to not attach happiness to transitory things and to develop trust in Spirit to look after us, to love us. This is the path to the ascension. Let us bless all gifts – these mini-crucifixions and mini-ascensions – that Spirit gives us that transform our personality into a soul-infused vessel of Spirit. Jesus’ ascension, like those of other enlightened masters in many traditions, is tangible proof of the great blessing of love and grace that awaits each of us when we stay on this well-worn spiritual path.