The Holy Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.

Apolytikion of the Feast. Fourth Tone

O Christ our God, You ascended in Glory and gladdened Your disciples by the promise of the Holy Spirit. Your blessing assured them that You are the Son of God, the Redeemer of the world.

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Kontakion Hymn of the Feast. Plagal of the Second Tone

O Christ Our God, upon fulfilling Your dispensation for our sake, You ascended in Glory, uniting the earthly with the heavenly. You were never separate but remained inseparable, and cried out to those who love You, "I am with you and no one is against you."

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INTRODUCTION

The Holy Feast-Day of the Ascension of Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ is celebrated each year on the fortieth (40) day after the Great and All-Holy Feast of Pascha (Day of the Resurrection). Since the date of Pascha changes each year, the date of the Feast of the Ascension changes. The Feast is always celebrated on a Thursday.

The Feast itself commemorates when, on the fortieth day after the Resurrection, Jesus led His holy Disciples to the Mount of Olives, and after blessing them and asking them to wait for the fulfillment of the promise of the Holy Spirit, He ascended into heaven.

BIBLICAL STORY

The story of the Ascension of our Lord, celebrated as one of the Twelve Great Feasts of the Church, is found in the book of the Acts of the Apostles (1:3-11). It is also mentioned in the Gospels of Saints Mark (16:19) and Luke (24:50-53). The moment of the Ascension is told in one sentence: "He was lifted up before their eyes in a cloud which took Him from their sight" (Acts 1:9).

Christ made His last appearance on earth, forty days after His Resurrection from the dead. The Acts of the Apostles states that the disciples were in Jerusalem. Jesus appeared before them and commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the "Promise of the Father". He stated, "You shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now" (Acts 1:5).

After Jesus gave these instructions, He led the disciples to the Mount of Olives. Here, He commissioned them to be His witnesses "in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth" (Acts 1:8). It is also at this time that the disciples were directed by Christ to "go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit" (St. Matthew 18:19). Jesus also told them that He would be with them always, "even to the end of the world" (St. Matthew 28:20).

As the disciples watched, Jesus lifted up His hands, blessed them, and then was taken up out of their sight (St. Luke 24:51; Acts 1:9). Two Angels appeared to them and asked them why they were gazing into heaven. Then one of the Angels said, "This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall come in like manner as you have seen Him going into Heaven" (Acts 1:11). [Source: Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America].

THE MEANING AND SIGNIFICANCE OF ASCENSION

For forty days after His Resurrection, Our Lord Jesus Christ remained on earth. Filled with the glory and honor of His Divinity, He appeared to His Disciples at various times and places. By eating and drinking with His disciples and conversing with them about the Kingdom of God, our Lord Jesus Christ assured them that He was Truly alive in His Risen and glorified Body. (The glorification of Jesus refers to His Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension into heaven. When we speak of Christ's glorified Body, we refer to Its honor, splendor, majesty and visible radiance - it gave off rays of bright Light!).

 The time span of forty days (40) is used symbolically in the Holy Scripture and by the Church indicate that an appropriate amount of time has passed for "COMPLETENESS".  [The rains of the Great Flood lasted for forty days.  Christ prayed in the wilderness for forty days.  We fast for forty days to prepare before the feasts of the Holy Nativity and the Resurrection (Pascha).

The Ascension is a sign and symbol of the Second Coming of Christ and the Final Judgment. Christ will return to the earth in the same manner as He left it. When the Risen Lord returns again in glory, God's will for mankind will be fulfilled.

Jesus Christ completed His earthly mission of bringing salvation to all people and physically was lifted up from the world into heaven. The meaning of the fullness of Christ's Resurrection is given in the Ascension. Having completed His mission in the world as the Savior, He returned to the Father in Heaven Who sent Him into the world. In ascending to the Father, He raises earth to Heaven with Him!

The Symbol of Faith - the Nicene Creed - which summarizes the important doctrines and teachings of the Orthodox Christian Church, contains these words: "And ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father." The importance and meaning of this Holy Feast is that Jesus Christ glorified our fallen and sinful humanity when He returned to the Father. In Jesus, Who is perfect God and perfect man, man is reunited with God. At His birth, Jesus took on our human nature (Incarnation). Through His Ascension He deified this human nature by taking His Body to heaven and giving it a place of honor at the right hand of the Father. With Christ, man's nature also ascends. Through Christ, man becomes a "partaker of Divine Nature" (II Peter 1:4). When Christ became man, He took up human nature and we share our human nature with Him. It is through Christ, Who is perfect God and perfect man, that we "partake of Divine Nature". When we say that Christ is sitting at the right hand of the Father, we mean that man has been restored to communion with God because Christ gives His humanity--which He shares with us--a permanent place of honor in Heaven. Christ honors us by putting us close to the Father.

We celebrate the Holy Ascension with the same great joy the holy Apostles had when they were promised that the Holy Spirit would come to bear witness to the presence of Christ in the Church. Holy Ascension Day is joyful, not only because Christ is Glorified, but also because we are glorified with Him. We are joyful because He goes to "prepare a place" for us and because He is forever present before the Father to interceded for us. [Source: "Ascension and Pentecost" article by Commission on Religious Education, Romanian Orthodox Episcopate, 1975, pp. 10-11).

INSPIRING WORDS FROM THE SAINTS AND HOLY FATHERS OF THE CHURCH ON THE FEAST OF THE ASCENSION:

"We cannot call ourselves Christians and remain fainthearted. We cannot hope to be together with Christ in the Kingdom of Heaven, whence he ascended on this fortieth day of Pascha, without being, according to our strength, His co-strugglers on the way of the Cross--the way of our Lord, Who was incarnate, was crucified and ascended for the sake of each of our souls.

May the Lord grant that on this feast of the Ascension our souls might ascend to a joyful life in this world, to true Christian courage, to patience that triumphs over evil and despondency, and endurance of all trials and sorrows, just as the Holy Hieromartyr Hilarion endured. It is audacious and sinful before God to be depressed in this beautiful and wondrous world, which the Lord created for us and through which He leads us to an even more beautiful and wondrous world--the Kingdom of Heaven" (Saint Tikhon).

A familiar prayer, attributed to Saint Symeon Metaphrastes (a mid-tenth century Byzantine hagiographer) and included in the Orthodox prayers before communion, recounts the significance of events in Christ's life, death and glorification, together with their spiritual and moral significance for believers:

"Through Your Life-Giving Resurrection You raised up the first father who had fallen. Raise me up, for I am sunk in sin, and give me the image of repentance. Through Your glorious ascension You made the flesh that You assumed to be divine and placed it on the Throne at the Father's right hand. Grant me to receive a place at the right hand with the saved through communion of Your Holy Mysteries."

Saint Gregory of Sinai describes in eloquent terms the correspondence between the descending, and ascending movement of Christ and spiritual growth in our own life. The passage is worthy quoting in full:

"Everyone baptized into Christ should pass progressively through all the stages of Christ's own life, for in baptism he receives the power so to progress, and through the commandments he can discover and learn how to accomplish such progression. To Christ's conception corresponds the foretaste of the gift of the Holy Spirit, to His nativity the actual experience of joyousness, to His baptism the cleansing force of the fire of the Spirit, to His transfiguration the contemplation of divine Light, to His crucifixion the dying to all things, to His burial the indwelling of divine love in the heart, to His Resurrection the soul's life-quickening resurrection, and to His ascension divine ecstasy and the transport of the intellect into God."

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MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU

The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

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Glory Be To GOD For All Things!

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George