Orthodox Christian Church of the Holy Spirit
Orthodox Church in America - Archdiocese of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania
145 N. Kern St Beavertown PA, 17813
Ascension of Our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ in the Flesh

Glory to Jesus Christ!  Glory forever!

In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

And . . . Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them . . . But they were terrified and afraid, and supposed that they had seen a spirit [ghost]. . . . And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them.  And it came to pass, while He blessed them, He was parted from them and carried up into Heaven.  And they worshipped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the Temple, praising and blessing God.

 

The Ascension of our Lord, albeit a major Feast of the Lord, is nevertheless an awkward feast for most of us.  It’s not at all like the Gospels that focus on our Lord’s coming among us and living with us, imparting His living water in His divine Word to us.  Rather, this Feast is about Him leaving, departing, exiting stage right – His exodus.  We know He spent 40 days in intense communion with His Disciples, inculcating in them – indoctrinating them – in the Faith.  We do not know just what it is He imparted to them, but we do have the Sacred Tradition of the Church and all that she imparts to us as we sojourn in her and with her.  As the Fathers teach us, not everything we believe and do was recorded in Sacred Writ, but was delivered unto us by the mouths of those who were our Lord’s intimates.  As one writer says in reflecting upon this Feast, “Sometimes the Ascension feels tacked on to the [Paschal] Mystery, overshadowed by the really important stuff – Jesus’ Death and Resurrection.  But the Ascension is more than an epilogue; it’s an essential part of our redemption.  At [the Liturgy] we don’t just remember Christ’s Passion and Resurrection, but also His ascending into Heaven” (Feasts of Our Fathers, 144-145), and “the Sitting at the right hand, and the second and glorious Coming” (Divine Liturgy Anaphora).  For He Who has departed must of necessity “’come again and receive [us] to [Himself]; that where [He is], there [we] may be also’” (Jn. 14:1-3).   

Why does our Lord, therefore, depart?  It’s more than God’s exit strategy of withdrawing the troops after winning the war.  It’s salvific as well as sanctifying, that is, it is for our good and for our goodness that He must depart.  For if He does not, then He cannot send down upon us His very Spirit of holiness and Truth, just as He has promised (Ac. 1:1-12).  Indeed, even as He told His Disciples in the Holy Gospel of St. John the Theologian,

‘I go to prepare a place for you. . . . I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. . . . It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper [the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit] will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you’ (Jn. 14:2, 18; 16:7).

 

 He goes so that we may partake in an even greater way of Him – of His Presence, of His Life, of His love, of His own divine nature.  This is the Eternal Life Jesus promises to all who turn to Him in faith and repentance: God imparts Himself to us so that we may be made partakers of His own divine nature (2 Pe. 1:4): “But as many as received Him, to them He gave power to become the sons of God, even to those who believe in His Name, . . . And of His fullness have all received, and grace for grace” (Jn. 1:12, 16; Ac. 5:32). 

St. John Chrysostom was famous for iterating that in our Lord’s Ascension to the right hand of the Father that it is we who ascend, not just Jesus.  He takes us with Him so that we, too, have been raised to Glory with Him, and that we, too, are seated “at the right hand of God” with Him and in Him for “[our] life is hidden with Christ in God” (Co. 3:1-3).  This is (or should be) absolutely stunning as we contemplate the reality of this Divine Mystery in which we even now participate in Christ God through the power and grace of the Holy Spirit!  This is precisely what St. Paul says regarding the morals and ethics of life in Christ.  Everything is built on this truth: Because of this, then this.  Because we participate in the power and grace of Jesus Christ, then such-and-such a life follows from this reality.  Who can truly comprehend this Mystery of what God in Christ has done and is doing for us?  We need to be terrified and afraid when we come face to face with God and His Mystery of blessing.  And, it should compel us to worship Him and to be continually in His Temple – the Church – praising and blessing God, just like those Apostles in today’s Gospel. 

I leave you with this reflection from the humble servant of God, Archimandrite Symeon Kragiopoulos, of blessed memory:

On the day of the Ascension, Christ finished all the things that He had to do on earth for our salvation; He departed taking with Him His humanity.  He had come as God and left as Theanthropos [the God-Man].  He went to the right hand of God the Father and will remain there eternally with His humanity, body and spirit – exactly as we have – so that in no wise will it be possible for anyone to abolish the work that He did.  In the Person of Christ, all of human nature is united with the divine and so human nature again finds the ‘according to the image’ and has reached the ‘according to the likeness’ of God.  Thus, the problem of man’s salvation has been solved once and for all.  Now, it remains for us to unite ourselves with Christ and to remain in Christ.  There is nothing better in this world than finding God, than rejoicing that you have found Him, and yearning that you get to know Him better, that you come more deeply into communion with Him, in love (Timeless Truths, 452).  

 

Through the prayers of our holy Fathers, O Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us.  Amen.

Glory to Jesus Christ!  Glory forever!

 

VIGIL PROPERS:                     PROPERS:

 

Is. 2:2-3                                               Ac. 1:1-12

Is. 62:10-63:3                                     Lk. 24:36-53      

Zc. 14:1, 4, 8-11                                

 

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