My beloved spiritual children in Our Risen Lord and Our Only True God and Savior Jesus Christ,
CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN! ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ! ΑΛΗΘΩΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ!
THE DIVINE ASCENSION OF OUR LORD, REDEEMER, AND GOD JESUS CHRIST
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn. Fourth Tone
Thou hast ascended in glory, O Christ Our God, and gladdened Thy disciples with the promise of the Holy Spirit; and they were assured by the blessing that Thou art the Son of God and Redeemer of the world.
Kontakion Hymn. Plagal of Second Tone
When Thou hadst fulfilled Thy dispensation for our sakes, uniting things on earth with the Heavens, Thou didst ascend in glory, O Christ our God, departing not hence, but remaining inseparable from us and crying unto them that love Thee: I am with you, and no one can be against you.
Forty days after the Resurrection, Christ ascended into heaven, where He had been previously, according to His own words to the Disciples before His Passion: "Does this offend you? What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before?" (St. John 6:61-62). Of course this does not mean that Christ, as God, was not in heaven during the time of His Incarnation, but that He would go up even with His human flesh. Moreover, His coming down from heaven is meant as divine condescension and not as a change of place.
In the time between His Resurrection and Ascension He appeared many times to His Disciples, to whom He revealed the mysteries of the Kingdom of God, according to the words of Saint Luke: "to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the Kingdom of God" (Acts 1:3).
The feast of the Lord's Ascension has great meaning and importance for the Christian and spiritual life, because it is connected with the deification (theosis) of every person. In what follows, presenting the central Christological points of this great feast of the Lord, we shall also establish its great value.
First we must see exactly what Holy Scripture says about the Divine Ascension. The Old Testament makes prophecies about this great event, and the New Testament presents it. We are not going to quote all the passages, but just the most indicative ones, because in the analysis which follows we shall also be looking at other passages which speak of Christ's Ascension.
Just as we have prophecies about all the happenings of the Lord in the Old Testament, this is true for the Divine Ascension as well. The Prophet Ezekiel saw a vision, which certainly refers to Christ's Ascension: "Then the glory of the Lord departed from the threshold of the temple and stood over the cherubim. And the cherubim lifted their wings and mounted up from the earth in my sight" (Ezekiel 10:18-19).
Prophecy relating to this great event of the Lord is reported chiefly in the psalms of David. In one of them it says: "God has gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet" (Psalm 47:5). And another psalm says: "He bowed the heavens also, and came down with darkness under his feet. And he rode upon a cherub, and flew. He flew upon the wings of the wind" (Psalm 18:9-10).
It is a well known, and something which we have also said in other analyses, that the revelation of God in the Old Testament are revelations of the Unincarnate Logos/Word. What was prophesied in the Old Testament was realized in the New Testament by the Incarnation of the Logos/Word of God. Thus Christ's Ascension is mentioned many times in the New Testament. We shall look at this at three particular points.
First, in the teaching of Christ Himself. In His speech to the Disciples before His Passion He said the following: "I came forth from the Father and have come into the world. Again, I leave the world and go to the Father" (St. John 16:28). And in another situation Christ gave assurance: "No one has ascended to heaven but the one who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of man who is in heaven" (St. John 3:13).
Secondly, we see the Ascension in the stories of the Evangelists, who refer to this event. Concretely it is told by the Evangelist Mark (St. Mark 16:19) and by Saint Luke, both in his Gospel (St. Luke 24:50-53) and in the Acts of the Apostles, which he himself wrote: (Acts 1:3 and 9-11). The details of the event of the Ascension and of the way in which it happened are described in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles...
"...Saint Athanasius the Great, referring to the two feasts of the Lord, those of the Resurrection and the Ascension, says that the feast of the Resurrection grants to men the prize of victory over death, while Christ's Ascension lifts man up to heaven, and since it changes man's way of life on earth, it makes heaven accessible to him. Therefore victory over death is one thing and another is the ascent of human nature to the Throne of God. This is precisely why through this event one can see the superiority of the Ascension, or to express it better, the perfection and fullness of the Divine Economy.
Another difference between the Resurrection and the Ascension is that the Disciples did not see the beginning of the Resurrection, but only the end, for no one saw Christ at the moment when He came out of the tomb, but He was only seen afterwards, when He manifested Himself to them. By contrast, at the Ascension, the Disciples saw its beginning, that is to say, they saw Him taken up to heaven, and they looked towards heaven to be informed of its end (St. Macarius of Philadelphia)...
"...The Greek word for 'ascension' is 'analipsis'. This word is used to point to the ascent of the Godman to heaven where He sits with God the Father. He was always sharing the Throne with His Father, but now He is incarnate sharing the Throne. Observing Christ's Ascension to heaven, we are looking at a 'peculiar racecourse", because the Creator of the world borne up in a human chariot" (Saint Epiphanius of Cyprus).
Aside from the word, 'ascension', Holy Scripture uses the word 'anodos', 'going up'. "God is gone up with a merry noise". Yet there is a difference between the ascension and the going up, which points to the mystery of this event. We use the verb 'ascended' chiefly to refer to the Divinity, and the verbs 'is lifted up' and 'is assumed', to indicate human nature, the human body, in one person. These different words indicated the mystery of the Godman (Saint Diadochos of Photiki).
Christ is the first and only one who has gone up to heaven with the body which he assumed from the Panagia (the Mother of God). On this subject we have assurance from Christ Himself, Who said: "No one has ascended to heaven but the one who came down from heaven, the Son of Man Who is in heaven" (St. John 3:13). The word 'no one' does not permit of any doubt, because it came from the undeceitful mouth of the Lord. To be sure, according to the interpretation of the Holy Fathers of the Church, the Panagia (All-Holy Mother of God) too ascended to heaven with her body, but this happened after Christ's Ascension, precisely because it was from her body that Christ became incarnate. But even in this case the body of the Panagia receives deification (theosis), while Christ's Body is a source of uncreated grace. (Source: The Feasts of the Lord. An Introduction to the Twelve Feasts and Orthodox Christology by His Eminence Metropolitan of Nafpaktos HIEROTHEOS)
(To be continued)
CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN!
ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ! ΑΛΗΘΩΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ!
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom
With sincere agape in Our Risen Savior Jesus Christ,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God