On the Feast of the Ascension, the Orthodox Church does not merely commemorate an historical event in the life of Christ. The Ascension of our Lord is one of the five greatest doctrinal truths of Christianity: the INCARNATION of our Lord, His CRUCIFIXION on the cross, His RESURRECTION from death. Our Church celebrates the fourth important event of Christ’s ASCENSION into heaven. The Ascension of Jesus Christ is a matter of hope and basis of our belief is the fifth great event that is to take place, His SECOND COMING, for the Christendom.
On this day, the Church celebrates Christ’s physical departure from the world and His glorification with God the Father. Ascension of Jesus is not the end of His ministry, but the end of His brief, earthly ministry, and the BEGINNING of His more encompassing, eternal, far more powerful and far-reaching ministry, as He is seated at the Father’s right hand in heaven.
With His Ascension the gates of Garden of Eden and Paradise, that was shut, at the back of Adam and Eve, was re-opened, widened and made accessible for mankind.
The Ascension of Christ Himself was part of His plan for our ascension as well. Thus, a feast of hope for us! He ascended to prepare a place for us in His Kingdom (Jn. 14: 2). He ascended with our human body to give us the ability to ascend as well. He ascended so He may seat us and glorify us with Him.
The Holy Ascension is sharing in Jesus’ joy and celebrating His return to the heavenly glory. Ascension is about Jesus’ triumph and glorification. When Jesus ascended into heaven, the disciples were not sad or depressed nor did they weep, but “they returned to Jerusalem with great (exceeding) joy” (Lk. 24: 52). They knew all the blessings (much richer blessings) they would inherit, as a result of Him being taken up into glory! We are like the Apostles, who can return to our own homes from the Mount of Olives with joy. The blessing of the Ascended Lord, promises the Descent of the Holy Spirit.
His earthly crown of thorns has been replaced with the heavenly kingly crown. The mocking crowd at Calvary has been replaced with myriads of adoring angels. It was His coronation, in which He was given all authority in heaven and on earth and whereby He was enthroned in the heavens as “King of kings, Lord of lords,” and “Lord of heaven and earth!” He’s reigning in heaven above as the King over God’s kingdom. We should rejoice that we will also one day wear crowns made of gold instead of thorns
Let us also remember that when we take part in Ascension, we travel Christ’s path to Heaven. Lord ascended in glory; that is, by way of the cross, self-denial, the way of sufferings. Let us take care not to fall into slumber as on that Mount Tabor; instead remember, that the way to Heaven is not from Tabor, but from Olivet; and to get to Olivet you have to go through Gethsemane and Golgotha. The Lord suffered for all of us equally and the Heavens are opened also to all of us equally.
Ascension is also a sign of the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The Spirit comes to reconcile and reunite the world with God. Christ’s Body is in heaven and His Spirit is here on earth. For us to endure until that blessed moment, we need divine power. That’s another reason we ought to rejoice in his Ascension Just as Prophet Elisha, received the Prophet Elijah mantle and its power, as he witnessed the later being taken into to heaven in Chariot of fire. The disciples, who witnessed our Lord’s Ascension into heaven, received His blessings and the gift of Holy Spirit. On the Sunday, after ten days, on the feast of Pentecost, the Church celebrates the Descent of the Holy Spirit. Before ascending the heaven, our Lord Jesus Christ’s final promise and last order to the apostles and the disciples as well as the close followers was to wait in Jerusalem, for the Holy Spirit, the promise of God the Father. (Luke 24:49, Acts 1:8) to become His witnesses all over the world. Let us wait and pray fervently along with the disciples for the Holy Spirit to come in its fullness.
He takes his place at God’s right hand so that he can pour out the promise of the Father, the Holy Spirit, upon his disciples (Eph. 4:10) and fill the Universe. When the Holy Spirit descends, it will not pass by, those who belong to Christ. Lord Jesus declared to be in heaven at the right hand of the Father in the place of glory, power, authority, and provision for us. At His birth, Jesus took on our human nature. Through His Ascension He deified this human nature by taking His Body to heaven and giving it a place of honor at the right hand of the Father. We should allow the Holy Spirit to animate our souls, in order to experience greater joy.
Ascension Day is joyful, not only because Christ is glorified, but also because we are glorified with Him. We are joyful because He goes to “prepare a place” for us and because He is forever present before the Father to intercede for us. He is “interceding for us at God’s right hand” (Rom. 8:34) and answering the prayers that we pray to Him, and in His NAME (Jn. 14: 13-14) and the only mediator between God and man (I Tim. 2:5)
Jesus completed His earthly mission of bringing salvation to all people and physically was lifted up from this world into heaven. Having completed His mission in this world as the Savior, He returned to the Father in heaven Who sent Him into the world. In ascending to the Father, He raises earth to heaven with Him! He is our “High Priest” who sympathizes with our weaknesses (Heb. 4:15) and the One who makes it possible for us to “approach the throne of grace with confidence and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16) and the One in whose Name the demons must flee and healing can become ours and all fear of death can disappear.
His ascension is the pledge of His return. The Ascension is a sign and symbol of the Second Coming. His promise – “I WILL RETURN”; Christ will return to the earth in the same manner as He left it. When the risen Lord returns again in glory, God’s will for mankind will be fulfilled.
The Apostles Jesus dwelt among them. They walked besides Christ, with Christ, around Christ, external to them, but with Ascension, He comes to live within us, by the intimate, indwelling of the Holy Spirit. He dwells within our hearts. He is present everywhere, That’s how CHRIST can be “dwell in our hearts” and “be with us always” even to the end of the age? By the presence of the Holy Spirit, which is HIS Spirit? Jesus comes to “dwell in our hearts by faith.” He resides inside us and empowers us and transforms us from the inside out to reflect His glory and to conform us to His image and likeness! Let us prepare for the renewal and strengthening of the Holy Spirit.