THE DIVINE ASCENSION (Part III)

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Lord and God and Savior,

CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.

THE DIVINE ASCENSION (Part III)

Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn. Mode 4.

Thou Ascended in Glory, O Christ our God,
after Thou filled the Disciples with joy, by
promising to send them the Holy Spirit, and
Thou blessed them and established their
faith, that Thou are the Son of God, the
Redeemer of the world.

Kathisma1.

As Angels were amazed at Thine unusual
Ascension and Thy Disciples gazed in awe
as Thou, O Savior, were taken up, in glory
Thou Ascended as God. O Master, gates
were lifted up for Thee. And therefore the
heavenly Hosts cried aloud in amazement,
"Glory, to Thee, O Lord, for Thy descent!
Glory to Thy Kingdom! Glory To Thine
Ascension, only One Who loves mankind."

Kathisma II.

The Unoriginate and Pre-Eternal God assumed
humanity’s nature, and mystically He deified it;
and today, He ascended to heaven. As He was
proceeding up with great glory into the heights,
Angels to Apostles said, "This is the One Who
will come again." They worshipped Him
together and cried aloud, "Glory to God Who
has Ascended!"

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From the teaching of the Holy Fathers, it is shown clearly that the essence and meaning of the feast is not only CHRISTOLOGICAL but also ANTHROPOLOGICAL. By His Ascension Christ LIFTED UP OUR OWN HUMAN NATURE INTO HEAVEN.

Moreover, the whole purpose and work of the Divine Economy lies in "not leaving us down on the earth, but RAISING USUP TO HEAVEN; FOR OUR TRUE SALVATION IS THERE, AND THERE WE WISH TO RECEIVE BACK THE VERY SWEET VISION OF OUR DEAREST LORD" (Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite).

In speaking of God’s DESCENT FROM HEAVEN TO EARTH, we do not mean His change of place, but THE DIVINE CONDESCENSION, WITHOUT OF COURSE LEAVING HIS THRONE AND SEAT BESIDE GOD HIS FATHER. Now by His Ascension, He does not raise the godhead, since He was always united with God His Father, but He ENTHRONES UP THERE OUR OWN NATURE WHICH HE ASSUMED (Saint Gregory Palamas).

So be the feast of the Ascension we are celebrating THE ENTHRONEMENT OF OUR NATURE IN HEAVEN. By the Resurrection and Ascension of human nature, we are at the same time also celebrating THE BEGINNING OF THE RESURRECTION AND ASCENSION OF EVERY BELIEVER. Therefore, when a person takes part in Christ’s Ascension, HE IS NO LONGER A MAN OF THE EARTH, LIKE THE FIRST MAN, BUT A MAN OF HEAVEN, LIKE THE SECOND MAN, CHRIST (Saint Gregory Palamas).

The essence and meaning of the feast is immensely great and high. If the power of death and the devil was overcome by the Resurrection, our nature ascended to the Throne of God by the Ascension and we ourselves were given the possibility of attaining the experience of the Ascension, which is DEIFICATION (THEOSIS).

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. therefore sometimes ‘lifted up’, sometimes ‘ascending’ is used, so that we will believe that Christ is God and man, IN ONE PERSON. These different words indicate the Mystery of the Godman (Saint Diadochos of Photiki).

Saint Gregory Palamas, with his theological penetration, is more analytical and gives more extensions to this event. He says that, as there were also many resurrections before Christ, there were also many ascensions before Christ’s Ascension. In the Old Testament, it says that a spirit took the Prophet Jeremiah up, an Angel took Abbakum, but most of all, the Prophet Elijah was taken up in a fiery chariot. The ascension of all of these were "A SORT OF TRANSFER", that is a transfer which somehow lifted them from the earth, but DID NOT TAKE THEM OUT OF IT. In other words, none of them passed beyond the earth’s atmosphere. Likewise, all who were lifted up and returned to the earth died again a little later. Christ, however, WAS RESURRECTED AND DEATH HAD NO POWER OVER HIM, AND BECAUSE HE ASCENDED INTO HEAVEN, EVERY HEIGHT IS LOWER THAN HE IS.

From these Patristic words, we can conclude that the Ascension of the Prophet Elijah in a fiery chariot was like a change of place, a sort of death, which shows approximately how people would have departed if Adam had not sinned and death had not entered the world. At any rate, ALL THESE THINGS CONFIRM THAT NO ONE HAS GONE UP TO HEAVEN EXCEPT CHRIST.

Christ’s Ascension took place in stillness, for only the Apostles were present, but in spite of these things, it became known to all the ends of the world. No one was unaware of it (Macarios Chrysocephalos). This shows that all the great happenings take place in stillness and silence. While THE REGENERATION OF MAN seems to be unseen by the eyes of the secular world, nevertheless it causes the greatest astonishment in the whole universe. There is no greater proof of the existence of God than the Lives of the Saints. Most of them were unknown to the world, but the grace of God made them known to the whole universe and to all the ages.

Saint Luke gives us a detail that is characteristic. because it shows the way in which Christ went up to heaven. When He was leading His Disciples as far as Bethany, "he lifted up his hands and blessed them, and it came to pass, while He blessed them, that He was parted from them and carried up into heaven" (Luke 24: 50-51).

In Holy Scripture, a blessing is opposite to a curse, and on the one hand, it is connected with the person who offers something in words or acts, and on the other hand it is an offering of grace and energy. It is well known that in the Holy Scripture, THE TRANSMISSION OF GOD’S BLESSING TO MAN TALES PLACE THROUGH VARIOUS ENERGIES. After the creation of the first couple, God blessed them (Genesis 1:28). The way in which the Pat10:16)riarch Jacob blessed the children of Joseph is characteristic. He placed his right hand on Ephraim’s head and his left on Manasseh’s head and he blessed them (Genesis 48:14-20).

In the Gospels we often see Christ blessing the people. A characteristic case is the blessing that He gave to the children. It says: "And He took them up in His arms, put His hands on them, and BLESSED THEM" (Mark 10:16). In this sense all the miracles which Christ performed have the element of blessing, but chiefly those which He did by laying His hand on the limbs of their bodies, as in the curing of Peter’s mother-in-law when "He touched her hand, and the fever left her" (Matthew 8:15).

Thus when Christ was Ascending to Heaven, He BLESSED THE DISCIPLES, SENDING THEM HIS GRACE. IT IS CHARACTERISTIC BE EMPHASIZED THAT HE DID NOT BLESS THEM AND THEN GO UP INTO HEAVEN, BUT HE WAS BLESSING THEM AS HE ASCENDED. "As He blessed them he parted from them and was taken up to heaven, GIVING THEM POWER FOR SUCCESS IN DOING THE COMMANDMENTS. By this He showed that He would always continue blessing His own, granting them His abundant and infinite grace (Macarios Chrysocephalos). [Source: The Feasts of the Lord. An Introduction to the Twelve Feasts and Orthodox Christology by Metropolitan of Nafpaktos HIEROTHEOS)

________
"Glory Be To GOD
For
All Things!"
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Divine and Most Glorious Ascension,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+ Father George



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