“God mounts the throne amid shouts of joy, the Lord amid trumpet blasts.”
The Feast of the Ascension of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ is celebrated each year on the fortieth day after the Great and Holy Feast of Pascha (Easter). Since the date of Pascha changes each year, the date of the Feast of the Ascension changes, but it is always celebrated on a Thursday.
The Ascension was the final Resurrection appearance to the Disciples and Mary, the Mother of God, and it marked a new beginning in all their lives. The Feast itself commemorates when, on the fortieth day after His Resurrection, Jesus led His disciples to the Mount of Olives. After blessing them and asking them to wait for the fulfillment of the promise of the Holy Spirit, “He was lifted up before their eyes in a cloud which took Him from their sight”.
The Feast is a celebration of the return of our Redeemer to Heaven. It is a day of victory for our Lord, a day of triumph that He fully merited. Christ left the throne of His Father, humbled Himself in the womb of the Virgin, lay in Bethlehem in a rough stable, fled from His own people into Egypt and spent years in Nazareth as a common labourer. Tirelessly He searched for the lost sheep of the house of Israel. His own brethren repaid Him with nothing but unkindness and misunderstanding. Then, beginning on the Mount of Olives and ending on Golgotha, He patiently paid the price of our redemption. All this He did because He loved us, because He sought to free us from Satan’s power. This work is now complete. He returns to heaven as a conqueror. The Son stands before the Father by whom He was sent and whose will He so perfectly performed.
Jesus could have done so much here on earth, so why did He go away? Jesus tells us that He will be replaced by the Holy Spirit who will bring us closer to Him, achieving the intimacy that God wants with our soul or that our soul desires of God. By His ascension, Jesus is able to be with us in His fullness, so that His mind and life becomes our mind and life. It is the Holy Spirit that brings about the change of the bread and wine into the body and blood of our Lord. By receiving Jesus in this holy mystery, He fills our life with His presence, abiding in all of us. He desires that we glorify Him in the world by living according to His example.
It was a great day for the Church when a cloud received Jesus out of the sight of the apostles and he ascended into heaven. It will be an even greater day when the same ascended Jesus returns in glory. In the meantime between Ascension and the Second Coming, there is no vacuum, for Christ is with us through His Church. Through prayer, his words, and the sacraments we can experience his ascension as well as the power and glory of his presence. In fact, prayer is exactly that: an ascension to God!
Jesus left us with many promises, three of which are associated with the Feast of the Ascension:
- Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit.
- Jesus promised to remain with us even to the end of time.
- Jesus promised to return in glory at the second coming.
Thou hast ascended in glory O Christ our God, granting joy to Thy disciples by the promise of the Holy Spirit. Through the blessing they were assured that Thou art the Son of God, the Redeemer of the world! (Troparion).
When Thou didst fulfill the dispensation for our sake, and didst unite earth to heaven, Thou didst ascend in glory, O Christ our God, not being parted from those who love Thee, but remaining with them and crying: I am with you and no one will be against you! (Kontakion).
Adapted with appreciation from:
Ascension of our Lord – Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (goarch.org)
Additional resource: Icons Speak: Their Message by Anthony M. Coniaris