The Meaning and Saving Significance
From the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Simplified
Confirming His Own Teaching and Promise (651-653)
"If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain" (1 Cor 15:14). The Resurrection confirms Christ's teachings (even those not accessible to human reason). By rising, Christ has given definitive proof of his divine authority.
Christ fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies and all of his own promises. The Resurrection proves the divinity of Christ, showing that he is truly "I Am," the Son of God and God himself.
Our Freeing and Our Receiving (654-655)
The Paschal mystery has two aspects, first, our liberation from sin (by Christ's death) and second, our receiving new life (by his Resurrection). This new life (justification) is victory over death and a new participation in grace. After the Resurrection, Jesus called us brothers: "Go and tell my brethren" (Mt 28:10). We are not brothers by nature but by adoptive grace.
The Risen Christ is the source of our own future resurrection. "In Christ all shall be made alive" (1 Cor 15:22). We have been swept up in Christ and "have tasted... the powers of the age to come" (Heb 6:5). "We live no longer for ourselves but for him" (2 Cor 5:15).
The Ascension - His Irreversible Entry into Glory (659-661)
Christ's body was glorified at the very moment of the Resurrection (as shown by the new powers he enjoyed). Yet, for forty days he appeared to his disciples while his glory remained veiled under the appearance of an ordinary humanity.
In his final apparition, Jesus "was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God" (Mk 16:19). His Ascension is the irreversible entry of his humanity into divine glory. After his Ascension, Jesus did appear to Paul "as to one untimely born" (Gal 1:16).
Jesus spoke to Mary Magdalene of another stage of his glory: "I have not yet ascended to the Father" (Jn 20:17). Therefore, Christ's glory shown to the disciples is quite different from the glory of Christ exalted at God's right hand. The Ascension is an historical event marking a transition from risen glory to exalted glory.
His Descending and Ascending (662-663)
The two events (Christ's coming down from heaven and his ascending up to heaven) are closely linked. Jesus said, "No one has ascended into heaven but he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man" (Jn 3:13). Human nature does not have "access to the Father's house." Only Christ can give us such access and give us confidence that we will be with him.
Jesus said he would "be lifted up from the earth" (Jn 12:32). This mystery (begun with the cross) is completed by the Ascension when Jesus entered "into heaven itself." In heaven, Jesus "makes intercession" for "those who draw near to God through him" (Heb 7:25).
Seated in Glory (664)
Now seated at the Father's right hand means that Jesus Christ has the glory of his divinity which he had before all ages. Because his flesh is glorified, he now is seated bodily. This "being seated" signifies the inauguration of the Messianic kingdom. "His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away" (Dan 7:14). After the Ascension, the apostles became witnesses that Christ's kingdom "will have no end" (Nicene Creed).