Christ is Ascended to the Heavens!

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen. Dear beloved, Jesus Christ our Lord is Ascended to the Heavens, and we with Him! We remember the Holy Equal-to-the-Apostles St Methodius and St Cyril, enlighteners of the Slavs. Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Holy fathers among the saints, St Methodius and St Cyril, pray for us!

During the blessed season of Pascha, we celebrated and greeted everyone, “Christ is Risen!” and responded with “Indeed He is Risen!” As we now celebrate the Holy Ascension of our Lord and Christ, let us also, celebrate and joyously greet everyone, “Christ is Ascended to the Heavens, and we with Him!”

O Christ God, You have ascended in Glory,
Granting joy to Your disciples by the promise of the Holy Spirit.
Through the blessing they were assured
That You are the Son of God,
The Redeemer of the world!

The Great Feast of His Ascension, one of the 12 great feasts of the Church, falls on the 40th day after His Resurrection, and celebrated on a Thursday. Our Lord led His disciples to the Mount of Olives, raised His right hand and blessed them, and comforted them with the promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit and the Pentecost, and ascended to Heaven (Acts 1:5-9). Christ our Lord also promised He would be with us till the end of the world, always (St Matt 28:20).

In the writing of icons depicting the Holy Ascension, we often see Christ ascending to Heaven surrounded by a mandorla (a special symbol, signifying something of great importance). We notice our beloved Most Holy Theotokos in the center of the icon praying, surrounded by holy Angels and Apostles.

The Holy Ascension is a great mystery which also reminds us of Christ our Lord, as the King of His Church, which is His Body (1 Cor 12:12-27), and fulfills the purpose and healing through the Holy Spirit (St John 14:15-20), our Comforter. At the same time, we are reminded of the Divine and human natures of Christ, because He ascended into Heaven bodily. He was God, and man. It is therefore also a joyous aspiration for us, as we strive towards theosis, the partaking of the Divine Nature. It is an exhilarating great feast day because when Christ ascended to Heaven, He lifted with Him, the world we live in, to Heaven.

The Holy Ascension should also serve as an ever-timely reminder for our remaining days, however short, or long, to strive and struggle towards God. This is because it is also prophesy for the return of Christ our Lord and the Last Judgment, which will again take place on the Mount of Olives. He will come the same way He went, in glory, in splendor, but His return will be one of Judgment. Let us remind ourselves constantly and consciously.

As we joyously say, “Christ is Ascended to the Heavens, and we with Him”, we also begin to take every pause in life, to pray, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”.

Let us close by praying the thanksgiving prayer:

It is truly meet to call thee blest, the Theotokos, ever blessed and most pure, and the Mother of our God. More honorable than the Cherubim, and more glorious than the Seraphim, without corruption thou gavest birth to God the Word: True Theotokos, we magnify thee.

O virgin Theotokos, rejoice; O Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, for thou hast borne the Savior of our souls, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Fr Raphael+

Isaiah 52:9-15
Psalm 23 (LXX 22)
St Luke 24:36-53
Acts 1:1-12