My beloved spiritual children in our Lord Jesus Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN!
THE DIVINE ASCENSION OF OUR LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST
By His Eminence Metropolitan of Nafpaktos HIEROTHEOS
The Lord's events are not separate from one another, nor are they rationalized. All feasts of the Lord are saving events of the Divine Economy, for it was by them that Christ arranged the salvation of the human race. Christ became man, He taught, He suffered, He was resurrected and ascended into heaven. There is a remarkable oneness among them. The Ascension is the last feast of the Lord, it is the end of the Annunciation and the Nativity.
Yet in the Holy Fathers of the Church, there is a slight parallel, by economy, among the feasts. We ay by economy, because if Christ had not become incarnate, the Resurrection and the Ascension would not have taken place. And if He had not risen from the dead, the Incarnation would have appeared to be in vain.
Saint Epiphanios, Bishop of Cyprus, analyzing the greatness and the value of the feast of the Ascension, says that many people who do not know the greatness of this feast regard it as lower than the others. However, just as the head is the jewel of the body, so also the feast of the Ascension is an embellishment of all the feasts. It is the fullness of all the feast of the Lord. A first feast is the awe-inspiring and wonderful Nativity of Christ in the flesh. Second is the feast of the Theophany (Epiphany), which has a great vision of God than the first. The third feast is the Resurrection, which was shown to be more glorious than the preceding ones because death was conquered, but even this did not have the fullness of joy, because Christ was still on earth. However, the feast of the Ascension filled the world with rejoicing, because when Christ opened the heavens, He showed us an extraordinary sight, "our flesh lifted up on the kingly throne" at the right hand of God the Father. So the value of the Ascension is in the fact that the human flesh which was deified (theosis) by its union with the divine nature of the Logos/Word, is seated on the kingly throne, at the right hand of God the Father.
By His Incarnation Christ deified (theosis) human nature, but men did not have much knowledge of the greatness of His Glory, and that is why they misunderstood Him, slandered Him and finally crucified Him. But when Christ ascended into Heaven, then men gained perfect knowledge of Christ. Thus the incarnation, with the Ascension which followed, filled the world with the knowledge of God (Saint Diadochos of Photike).
But Saint Athanasios 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 afterward 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 (Macarios of Philadelphia).
By His Resurrection, Christ conquered death and gave the gift of resurrection to all. All will be resurrected on the day of Christ Second Coming, both the righteous and sinners, but not all will be taken up. Only the righteous, the deified (theosis) will be found worthy of this great experience. The Apostle Paul confesses: "And those who have died in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord" (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).
Thus all will be resurrected, but only the righteous will be taken up, will be caught up in the clouds to meet Christ coming from heaven. This shows a greater communion and unity with Him. That is why, from the soteriological point of view, the Ascension is regarded as a greater feast, precisely because he who has a share in the Ascension has a share in deification (theosis).
(To be continued)
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!" - Saint John Chrysostomos
With sincere agape in Christ's Holy Resurrection
The sinner and unworthy servant of God