My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
A HOMILY, ON THE ASCENSION OF OUR LORD, GOD, AND
SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST.
In reviewing the prefiguration of the Ascent Into the Heavens, we begin with Saint Romanos who writes that "the faithful saw all this take place. They chanted with David: "God ascended in a loud noise, the Lord with a sound of a trumpet" [Psalm 46:5]. The Angels told the Galilaeans that ‘it is not the same for Christ as it was for Enoch of old. For the well-known Enoch passed over from things of earth. He was not found worthy of those of heaven but was placed in the tents of the just. As for Elias, who was seated on the fiery chariot, he ascended–yet he did not reach heaven. For it written, "as to heaven. But the God of Enoch and the God of Elias, on ascending to heaven, declared to you, "I am not parting from you, I am with you and there is no one against you."
Saint Gregory Palamas reminds us that "when Elias mounted up above the earth in midair, this clearly pointed toward Christ’s ascension from earth to heaven which was to happen later. Elias portrayed the Divine Ascension "when he arose on a four-horsed chariot, as he praised Thee, O Lover of man."
Saint Romanos tells us that the Disciples were worrowing over His departure from them. The Lord "took pity and cried out, ‘Cease weeping My friends, for this is not a moment for tears, nor it it a day of sorrow. IT IS AN HOUR OF JOY, BECAUSE I AM TAKING UP MY WINGS TO GO TOWARD MY FATHER. BE JOYFUL. FOR EVERYTHING THAT MAY HAPPEN, HAPPENS FOR YOUR SAKES. IT WAS FOR YOU THAT I CAME DOWN AND WENT THROUGH ALL, SO THAT I MIGHT PLEASE YOU, AND YOU MIGH RECEIVE ME. IT IS FOR YOU AGAIN THAT I ASCEND TO HEAVEN, TO PREPARE THE PLACE WHERE I MUST BE WITH YOU. FOR THERE ARE MANY DWELLING PLACES ON HIGH WITH MY FATHER. Contemplate this taking up. As you see it, understand it as of the body, not the Divinity. For the flesh that you see is teaching the things on high. For EVERY PLACE IS FULL OF MY DIVINITY. But nevertheless to this visible body, which is being lifted up, it conjoined that of Me which is not apparent. For I was united to that which is apparent. I AM ONE, UNSEEN YET AT THE SAME TIME SEEN."
WHO IS THE KING OF GLORY?
Saint Justin the Martyr states: "When Our Christ arose from the dead and Ascended into heaven, the heavenly princes chosen by God were ordered to open the Gates of Heaven THAT THE KING OF GLORY MIGHT ENTER AND SIT AT THE RIGHT OF THE FATHER UNTIL HE MAKES HIS ENEMIES HIS FOOTSTOOL. Now, when these heavenly princes saw that He was in appearance without beauty, honor, or glory, they did not recognize Him and they asked, ‘WHO IS THE KING OF THE GLORY?" [Psalm23:10a] And the Holy Spirit, either in His own name or in the Father’s answered, ‘The Lord of the hosts, He is the King of the Glory’ (Psalm 23:10b].
Saint Gregory Palamas writes, "Christ was unbegotten and uncreated according to His Divinity, and it was for our sake that He became man. He lived as He did because of us, TEACHING US THE PATH THAT LEADS BACK TO TRUE LIFE. EVERYTHING HE SUFFERED IN THE FLESH HE SUFFERED FOR US TO HEAL OUR PASSIONS. ON ACCOUNT OF OUR SINS HE WAS LED TO DEATH, AND FOR US HE ROSE AND ASCENDED, PREPARING OUR OWN RESURRECTION AND ASCENSION FOR UNENDING ETERNITY. FOR ALL THE HEIRS OF EVERLASTING LIFE FOLLOW AS FAR AS POSSIBLE THE PATTERN OF HIS SAVING WORK ON EARTH.
We start this IMITATION OF CHRIST WITH Holy Baptism, which symbolizes the Lord’s Burial and Resurrection. Virtuous living and conduct in accord with the Gospel are it intermediate stage, and its perfection is victory THROUGH SPIRITUAL STRUGGLES AGAINST THE PASSIONS, WHICH PROCURES PAINLESS, INDESTRUCTIBELE, HEAVENLY LIFE. As the Apostles tells us: "IF YOU LIVE IN THE FLESH, YE SHALL DIE: BUT IF YE THROUGH THE SPIRIT DO MORTIFY THE DEEDS OF THE BODY, YE SHALL LIVE" (cf. Romans 8:13). THOSE WHO LIVE ACCORDING TO CHRIST IMITATE WHAT HE DID IN THE FLESH. JUST AS HE DIED PHYSICALLY, SO IN TIME EVERYONE DIES, BUT WE SHALL ALSO RISE AGAIN IN THE FLESH AS HE DID , GLORIFIED AND IMMORTAL, NOT NOW BUT IN DUE COURSE, WHEN WE SHALL ALSO ASCEND, AS SAINT PAUL SAYS: for "WE SHALL BE CAUGHT UP", HE SAYS, "IN THE CLOUDS, TO MEET THE LORD IN THE AIR: AND SO SHALL WE EVER BE WITH THE LORD" (1 Thessalonians 4:170.
Do you see that any of us who wishes will share in the Lord’s Resurrection and will be an heir of God and joint heir with Christ? (cf. Romans 8:17) that is why we joyfully celebrate the resurrection of our human nature, its exaltation and sitting down on high, and also the starting point of the resurrection and ascension of each of the faithful, publicly proclaiming the words of today’s Gospel reading, that when the Lord had risen, He stood in the midst of His Disciples (Luke 24:36-53).
Why did He stand in their midst and afterwards accompany them? "And he led them out", it says, "as far as to Bethany, and He lifted up His hands, and blessed them" (Luke 24:50). He DID IT TO SHOW THAT HE WAS COMPLETELY WHOLE AND UNHARMED TO PROVE THAT HIS FEET, THAT HAD ENDURED BEING PIERCED BY NAILS, WER SOUND AND TROD FIRMLY, THAT HIS HANDS, THAT HAD BEEN LIKEWISE NAILED TO THE CROSS, AND HIS SIDE, THAT HAD BEEN PIERCED BY THE SPEAR, WERE WHOLE, EVEN THOUGH THEY BORE THE SIGNS OF THE WOONDS AS CONFIRMATION OF THE SAVING PASSION. I think that the words, "He stood in the midst of His Diesciples" (cf. Lue 24:36), also imply THAT THEIR FAITH IN HIM WAS STRENGTHENED BY THE WAY HE APPEARED ADN BLESS THEM. HE DID NOT JUST STAND AMONG THEM ALL, BUT STOOD IN THE MIDST OF EACH ONE’S HEART AND IT STRENGTHENED THROUGH FAITH, SO THAT THE PSALMIST’S WORDS "GOD IS IN THE MIDST OF HER; SHE SHALL NOT BE MOVED" (Psalm 46:5), CAN BE APPLIED TO EACH OF THEIR HEARTS. FOR FROM THEN ON THE LORD’S APOSTLES BECAME STEADFAST AND IMMOVABLE." [Source: The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church and The Homilies of Saint Gregory Palamas)