The Meaning of the Ascension

“Jesus said to her (Mary Magdalene), ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, ‘Do not touch me (Μή μου ἅπτου / Noli me tangere / Не прикасайся мне), for/because (γὰρ) I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” (Jn 20: 15-17)

As many Christians celebrate the Lord’s Ascension this Thursday, (and we, Orthodox Christians, prepare to celebrate it next Thursday), I’m thinking about what the Lord says to Mary Magdalene about His upcoming Ascension. She’s not to “touch“ Him as she could previously, physically, “because“ He had not yet “ascended“ to sit at the right hand of the Father, whence He was to send down His Holy Spirit, ten days after His Ascension, on Pentecost. The Ascension was to take Christ’s physical Presence from us, and prepare us for a new kind of His Presence among us, in the Holy Spirit, in Whom we are given to “touch“ Christ in a new way, in the sacraments of the Church. Christ is preparing Mary for that new reality, because, apparently, He knows that she is ready for that, even while the “doubting“ Thomas was not, who was given physically to touch the wounds of the risen Lord (Jn 20: 24-29).

Why would Christ remove Himself from us, physically, in His (physical) Ascension to sit at the right hand of the Father, in order to inaugurate the sacraments of the Church? Because 1. He wanted to demonstrate to us His unity with the Father, as the “place“ from which the grace of God, the Holy Spirit, is poured out upon us; and 2. Because in this project Christ was inaugurating, called “Church,“ He was entrusting the celebration of these sacraments to physically-present human beings, His apostles and their followers, whom He was to empower to do so with the (invisible) grace of the Holy Spirit, and no longer with His own (visible) Presence, in the way it was “touchable“ to us throughout His earthly mission. So as our Lord prepares to elevate fallible human beings, the apostles and all of us, to be vessels of the Holy Spirit in this world, He “ascends“ to His Father in His human body, thus elevating our humanity (in His human body) to a “place“ higher than it ever was before. When He ascends, He’s restoring our dignity, which we had lost when we followed the God-less advice of the serpent (Gen 3: 1-7), and which we continue to lose whenever we get caught up in the pointless circles of our obsessions and addictions. So let me break out of the pointless circles today, and be elevated onto the life-bringing Cross, which points in all four directions, extending me and dignifying me to self-offer as Christ did, in His all-embracing arms, stretched out on the Cross.

Ascension Thursday 2019

Thursday, 5/30, Ascension of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ it is a holy day

The Divine Liturgy will be offered:

9:00 a.m. +Vira Walnycky requested by Ksenia Kuzmycz (in Ukrainian)
7:00 p.m. For the people of the parish (in English)

St. Augustine of Hippo, one the Doctors of the Church, preached:

On this day therefore, that is, the fortieth after His Resurrection, the Lord ascended into heaven.  We have not seen, but we believe. They who beheld Him proclaimed what they saw, and they have filled the whole earth:

There are no speeches nor languages where their voices are not heard.  Their sound hath gone forth into all the earth: and their words unto the ends of the world (Ps. xviii. 4, 5).

And so they have reached even unto us, and awakened us from sleep. And lo! this death is celebrated throughout the world.

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Myrrh Bearing Women

SEEKING THE LIVING AMONG THE DEAD
(Sunday of the Myrrh-Bearers)

“The godly women hastened to You with myrrh, O Christ. The one whom they had sought with tears, as a dead man, they worshipped as the living God! And they proclaimed the mystical pascha to Your disciples.” (Paschal Canon, Troparion of Ode 7)

The women hastened to the Tomb that Sunday morning, looking for “a dead man.” But the One they found, the One revealed to them, was “the living God.” Hence the “mystical pascha” (i.e., “passover” or “transition”) that they proclaimed to the disciples was not only the Lord’s transition from death to life, but their own, the women’s, transition from merely-human dedication to “a dead man” to faith in “the living God.” Because their beloved Teacher was “more” than they had recognized. In His resurrection, Jesus Christ exceeded all their expectations.

Today let me not approach “the living God,” my risen Lord, as if He were “a dead man”; as one to whom I may pay my respects in some external way, but whose life-giving Presence in my world I don’t quite recognize, for all practical purposes. Let me embrace wholeheartedly the Great Fact that He is, indeed, risen, and is there for me, and alive to me, beyond my expectations. “Let God arise,” I say this morning with the Myrrh-Bearing Women, “and His enemies be scattered” from my heart. Today let me start anew, and embrace, once again, the new life in my ever-living, ever life-bringing Lord, by re-connecting with Him, rather than “seek the living among the dead,” – among the merely-human opinions and expectations that come from my own head or from God-less voices in my world. O Christ, our mystical Pascha, help us transition once again today, from the tombs of self-isolation and self-reliance, according to our oft-suffocating expectations of ourselves and others, to the freedom of communion with You, a Lord beyond all our expectations.

Meditation by Sr. Vassa

The Myrrh-bearers —Third Sunday of Pascha

This Sunday presents us with the proclamation of the resurrection according to St. Mark.

We are first confronted with the death of our Lord. Joseph of Arimathea goes to Pilate to reclaim the body. Pilate wonders that he died so quickly, while Joseph entombs his body with great care and love. As Christians we must confront the reality that Jesus died as a sign of his love. His glory was the Cross, making the Christian faith unique – love is found in sacrifice, life is found in death, power is found in service. And St. Paul’s words are read on Good Friday: “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the learning of the learned I will set aside.’” (1 Corinthians 1:18-19). Believing in the Resurrection, we are confronted with the Christian paradox that the world cannot understand.

The women go to the tomb on the third day, but Jesus is not there. The young man announces to them: “Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Behold, the place where they laid him” (Mark 16:6). The women are told to announce the resurrection, but they fail to do so, “They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid” (Mark 16:8). This too is a challenge to our faith. Where do we seek the Christ? Can we today complete the mission the women were entrusted with, can we proclaim the resurrection? Do we understand the gospel and commit ourselves to the Lord, “who trampled upon death by death.”

Meditation by Archpriest David Petras

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Easter Sviachene May 5, 2019

The traditional Easter parish “SVIACHENE” will be held on May 5, following the 10:30 Divine Liturgy. We will celebrate only one Divine Liturgy this Sunday.

We will be running a raffle. If you would like to donate any items to be raffled, please bring them to our church hall on Wednesday evening at setup or before “Sviachene” on Sunday, May 5.

Tickets are $25.00 for adults, $10.00 for youth from 12 to 18. Free for altar boys, and under 12.

Remember if you can donate homemade cakes for deserts, please do so. Fresh and healthy!

Thomas Sunday

Today is the eighth day of the celebration of the eighth day. Pascha! The Resurrection of our Lord! The Feast of Feasts!

It is a time of absence and presence.

Absence – when the risen Messiah comes to his apostles through locked doors, by divine providence, Thomas is not with them. May he come through the locked doors of our hearts!

Presence – when the risen Messiah comes to Thomas a week later, the doubting apostle gives the proclamation of faith that resounds through the ages: “My Lord and my God!

Absence – when the women come to the tomb, the body of Jesus is not there. “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” the angels ask.

Absence – the disciples on the road to Emmaus do not recognize the Lord.

Presence – they do recognize him in the breaking of the bread, “were our hearts not burning when he explained the Scriptures to us?”

Absence – we do not stand in the presence of the Lord in the same way as the apostles did.

Presence – the Lord is with us in Holy Communion, as he comes to us more intimately than we could imagine.

Absence – “But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you” (John 16:7).

Presence – “Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).

Today the Gospel tells us – “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). Our celebration of the Resurrection, therefore, is not simply a historical report or remembrance, it is the truth of God-with-us today, challenging us to live in Christ.

Are not our two Christian greetings exactly the same:

Christ is risen! Indeed, he is risen!
Christ is among us! He is and he will be!

Meditation by Archpriest David Petras

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PASCHA – The Feast of Feasts

At the Resurrection Matins, there is a procession where the people walk around the church. This procession recalls the way the women went to the tomb. The people stop in front of the Church doors and listen to the priest announce “Christ is Risen!”

The church bells ring, and the priest and people sing, “Christ is Risen!”

The doors are opened, and the church is filled with light.

The Holy Shroud is on the Altar as a sign that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. The people walk into the church singing, “Christ is Risen!”

There are many changes in the church. The doors on the Icon Screen are open. They will remain open from Pascha until after Divine Liturgy on Bright Saturday. This is to remind us that He opened the gates of Heaven and granted us eternal life.

The priest blesses a special bread called the Artos. The Artos is Christ – the Bread of Life.

It will remain in the church all of Bright Week. It will be distributed on Thomas Sunday.

People greet each other with – “Christ is Risen!” And respond with – “Indeed He is Risen!”

Pentecost

Pentecost is the fiftieth day, “the last and greatest day of the feast.” In the New Testament, this story is told only in the Acts of the Holy Apostles (Acts 2:1-12). On this day, the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples in the form, “as of fire” and they were filled with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:3) From this event, some observations can be made:

-This fulfills the promise made by the risen Jesus in the Gospel of Luke, “And[behold I am sending the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49)

-This was in the upper room, where the risen Lord came to the disciples through locked doors.

-There were twelve apostles, Matthias having been elected to replace the traitor Judas, as “a witness to [Jesus’] resurrection (Acts 1:22).”

-There were about one-hundred and twenty people present. Perhaps this was a symbolic number, for ten people were needed for a prayer group, hence, twelve apostles plus ten people for each apostle. The Spirit comes upon this gathering of communities.

-“As of fire,” the fire indicates the light of faith and the warmth of love.

-By the power of the Holy Spirit, the apostles are transformed from frightened followers to fearless witnesses. To be a Christian means to be a witness to life, to the Resurrection, this can be done only by the grace of God.

-Bystanders from every nation heard the apostles in their own language. The scripture does not tell us that the apostles spoke simultaneously in a variety of languages, but that the listeners heard them in their own language. What we appropriate, then, is the witness of the apostles to the resurrection and faith in Jesus. This is the wellspring of our faith, which we profess always in “one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.”

-Can we accept this witness in our lives without fear.

-Today is seen as the birth of the Church, and the East sees it also as the beginning of ordination.

-Mary, the Mother of the Church, is present.

“We have seen the true light, we have found the true faith, and we worship the undivided Trinity, for the Trinity has saved us.”

Meditation by Archpriest David Petras

On the Lord’s Resurrection and Ascension

The Resurrection and the Ascension are two separate concepts. This was known by the Gospel writers, particularly St. Luke. St. John also distinguishes the two, when Mary Magdalene meets the Risen Lord. Jesus says to her, “Stop holding [traditional: “do not cling to me”] on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father” (John 20:17). The Resurrection is the restoration to life of his human body, the Ascension is the glorification of Jesus, both God and man, at the right hand of the Father: “… the angels marveled at the sight of a human being more exalted than themselves. Today, the Father receives again in his bosom the one who was in him from eternity” (First sticheron at Psalm 140, Feast of Ascension).

The Ascension is the completion of the Paschal Mystery, the descent in humility, the exaltation again into glory. This serves as the model for every human life. It was necessary that in Christ the full glorification of the human nature be already fulfilled. Jesus did not continue to live among us in a historical sense, for our sanctification lies in accepting the Paschal Mystery of death and resurrection in faith, as our Lord told Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed. (John 20:29)” This, again, is the divine oikonomia. [Paraclete comes]. Jesus is already “King of kings and Lord of lords” (1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 17:14, 19:16), and reigns at the right hand of the Father.

St. Athanasius gives the fundamental Christian interpretation of the Ascension, “Since, then, the Word was an image of God and was immortal, he assumed the form of a slave and underwent death in our behalf as a man in his own flesh, so that through this death he might, on our account, bring himself home to the Father. For this reason he is also said as a man to have been exalted on our account, and for our sake, so that, just as by his death we have all died in Christ, so conversely in Christ we may be exalted, roused from the dead and going up to the heavens, ‘where Christ entered as our forerunner’ (Hebrews 6:20); Against the Arians 1:37-43 in ACD (Ancient Christian Doctrine) 3, 163).

Meditation by Archpriest David Petras