The Glorious Feast of the Ascension
By: Fr Matthew Attia
On Thursday, 25 may the Church will celebrate the Feast of the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ into heaven, 40 days following His Glorious Resurrection.
The Ascension = Confirms the Divinity of Christ
Christ said, “I came forth from the Father. Again, I leave the world and go to the Father.” (John 16:28). Some 3000 years ago, Solomon the wise King asked, “Who ascended to heaven and descended?” (Proverbs 30:4). The only Person who could answer this puzzle was Jesus Christ, who said to Nicodemus, “No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.” (John 3:13). Jesus, by His ascension, proved that He is heavenly and of heavenly origin and after He accomplished redemption, He went again to His royal and divine residence in heaven. At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit has come to reveal the hidden mystery of Christ and that He is equal to God the Father and without the Holy Spirit, no one can say that Jesus is Lord.” (1 Corinthians 12:3).
The Ascension = Prepares me to Receive the Holy Spirit
Christ said, “I will not leave you orphans, I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper that He may abide with you forever. He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” (John 16). Before the ascension, Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give you.” But the means of having this peace is through the Holy Spirit. This might be well explained by St. Cyril of Alexandria when he said, “Everything is from the Father through the Son by the Holy Spirit.”
The Ascension = Prepares for me a Heavenly Place
Christ said, “Let not your hearts be troubled, you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house there are many mansions, if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am there you will be also.” (John 14:1-3). Moreover, Christ said, “Do not fear little flock for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom.” (Luke 12:32). St. Paul reminds us, “For our citizenship is in heaven.” (Philippians 3:20). “For God has prepared a city for them.” (Hebrews 11:16). Thus we labour and strive diligently in order to hear the words of Jesus, “Come you that are blessed by My Father, come inherit the Kingdom.” (Matthew 25:34).
The Ascension = Directs my Heart, Mind and Life to Heaven
“If then you were raised with Christ,” says St. Paul, “seek those things which are above where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above not on things on the earth.” (Colossians 3:5). “Lay hold on to eternal life,” writes St. Paul to Timothy, “to which you were called.” (1 Timothy 6:12). Let us therefore sow in the Spirit that we may reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6:7-8).
The Ascension = Reminds me of the Second Coming of Christ
“This same Jesus who was taken up from you into heaven.” Said the angels to the disciples, “will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11). “Behold I am coming quickly and My reward is with Me, to give to everyone according to his work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.” (Revelation 22:12-13). “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10).
The Ascension = Restoration and Glorification
Christ is preparing a heavenly place for us, and the Holy Spirit is preparing us to inherit that heavenly place with Christ. Therefore, as in marriage, the Holy Spirit is uniting the bride and the groom together, similarly in this eternal love relation, the Holy Spirit is uniting Christ and with the faithful soul that He loved and redeemed with His blood.” (Revelation 1:5). The Ascension was the final act of the earthly mission of Christ. It represented the ultimate restoration and glorification of humanity; its being enthroned at the right hand of the Father in the realm of Divine existence known as heaven. Christ and all humanity in Him were accepted into the life of the Holy Trinity (Ephesians 1:20).
The Ascension = My Spiritual Ascendency
The spiritual life, as Pope Shenouda reminds us, is a perpetual ascendancy towards God the Father. St. Peter urges us to, “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,” (2 Peter 3:18). He also says, “Add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful.” (2 Peter 1:5-8).
Wishing you a blessed and joyous Feast of the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ into heaven, remembering the words of our Saviour, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.” (Matthew 6:33). May you always feel and see “a door standing open in heaven.” (Revelation 4:1).