Here is part of today’s Gospel, from St Matthew: ‘And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and deliver him to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.”’

The phrase ‘going up to Jerusalem’ runs like a thread throughout Lent. The ascent has many layers of meaning: firstly in the ‘Songs of Ascent’, the Gradual Psalms, which were traditionally sung by pilgrims as they went up for the major feasts of the year. Then there is the deeper sense of this year’s ‘Ascent’, the one our Lord already knows will happen: the ascent on Mount Golgotha. Then there is the ‘Ascent’ of the Resurrection, completed in the Ascension itself.

St Paul, in Ephesians, wrote: ‘God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus’. We may like to reflect today on the pattern of ‘descents’ and ‘ascents’ in our own lives. May God bless you in this endeavour, and draw close to you this day.