My beloved spiritual children in Our Risen Lord Jesus Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN!
THE DIVINE ASCENSION
By His Eminence Metropolitan of Nafpaktos HIEROTHEOS
Forty days after His 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 16:19) 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).
Christ's Ascension is mentioned many times in the New Testament. We shall look at this at three particular points.
First, is 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 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" (Saint 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 which we shall look at in what follows.
Thirdly, there are many Apostolic passages which show the Apostles' assurance about this event. Especially in the early Church, the Ascension constituted one of the characteristic points of the Symbols of the baptistries, that is to say, they comprised the confession of faith before Baptism. The Apostle Paul, referring to the central points in Christ's work of absolution, the work of the Divine Economy, also includes the Ascension: "God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by the Angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up in glory" (1 Timothy 3:16). Referring to the power of the Father, he says that it "worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 1:20). Elsewhere we have said that the power of the Father is also the Son's power. After Christ cleansed us from sins "He sat down at the right hand of the majesty on high" (Hebrews 1:3), and indeed Christ gave the promise to all who were united with Him that they too would sit on the throne of His Father: "To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with me on my throne, as I also overcame and sat down with my Father on His throne" (Revelation 3:21).
From these passages which have been cited it is very clear that the Church attaches great meaning to the event of the Divine Ascension, because, as we shall see below, Christ's Ascension expresses the deepest meaning of the spiritual life. (Source: The Feasts of the Lord)
(To be continued)
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostomos
With sincere agape in His Holy Resurrection
The sinner and unworthy servant of God