Ascension of the Lord 2020

The mystery of the incarnation is not simply a historical commemoration. It is entering into the reality of God sharing our bodiliness. For in Jesus, God becomes a human being that we might share in his divinity. This is the deeper meaning of Christ’s birth — a process that is continued through his life, ministry, passion, death, resurrection and ascension. Ultimately Jesus brings the whole of creation with him when he ascends to the Father. He ‘ascends’ so that he can be universally present — indeed omnipresent — through the very matter that seemingly hides his presence.

New Skete Monastery

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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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

Ascension of the Lord

The ascension of our Lord into glory is the seal on his resurrection. Jesus taught Nicodemus, “No one has gone up to heaven except the one who has come down from heaven, the Son of Man” (John 3:13). St. Paul further explains that the ascension is the sign of his victory over the Hades, the kingdom of death, “What does ‘he ascended’ mean except that he also descended into the lower regions of the earth? The one who descended is also the one who ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things” (Ephesians 4:9-10).

As God, the Lord does not change, for he reigns with his Father in glory forever. But in the ascension, Jesus in his human nature, one person as the Word of God and Son of God and incarnate man, lifts up our human nature to the right hand of the Father in the hope of life and deification. St. John tells us of this hope, “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2-3).

The liturgy of the Church teaches us the same mystery, “Ascending in glory today from the Mount of Olives, through your great love, you lifted up our fallen nature and enthroned it with the father on high” (Vespers). This was done out of love for us, “Having so loved human nature, you granted that it may be enthroned with you. In your compassion you united it with yourself, in union with it you have suffered, and by your passion you glorified it, O God, beyond all suffering” (Vespers).

Meditation by Archpriest David Petras

Ascension Thursday

“…He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father.”
 
Tomorrow, May 10th, is Ascension Thursday, a holy day of obligation. The Divine Liturgy will be offered at 9:00 a.m. (in Ukrainian) and at 7:00 p.m. (in English).
 
“It is no exaggeration to say that the feasts of Annunciation and Christmas have their exact counterpart and, indeed, their fulfillment in the Ascension. Christ united himself to our nature in order to raise us up to God. The Word became flesh and made his home among men, but through the Ascension, “the head of our human race is at home, where only God is at home.” And he ascended, not to abandon the earth—much less his flesh—but to fill all things with himself” (Hieromonk Herman (Majkrzak)).