In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen. Christ is ascended! He is ascended in glory! Today is a great and celebrated feast day of the Church – the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ. In Greek it is “Analepsis”, or the “taking up”.
We believe that the Ascension is a Divine Mystery, where it marks the completion of Christ’s physical presence with us on earth, and most importantly, in the union of God and man when Jesus ascended to Heaven in His glorified human body, to sit at the right hand of God our Father in Heaven. The Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ shows us His two natures, Divine and human, and points us the illuminated path to “theosis”.
In the same way Christ our Lord also showed us the plan of God for all of us, in complete union with Him in Heaven. That is what He intends for us, and that is what we hope for in all our struggles.
When we reflect upon the Holy Ascension of our Lord, let us also think of our human ascension, in growing closer to our Lord.
In the Orthodox tradition, you will often hear of climbing the mountain of faith. In Isaiah 2:2-4, we see this reference to the “mountain of the Lord” for us. The mountain here refers to the Church, the body of Christ in its fullness steeped in Holy Tradition and Truth, and we are to labor and grow by climbing this incredible heights. We know that climbing a mountain is difficult and painful. And yet, as Apostle Paul admonished all of us, we are to be soldiers of Christ, and to fight the good fight, to always struggle for our faith in God. Never give up. Never listen to the lures and temptations the evil one lays for us to distract and yank us from our faith in God. Keep fighting on. Keep praying.
As we reflect on Psalm 23, we find the prophesy of our Lord’s resurrection as the sovereign Lord of all things. In the ascent on the mountain, the Psalm reminds us to keep a pure heart, to love our neighbors, and to keep simple lives.
And in Luke 24:36-53, we are reminded of our Lord’s conquest of death and the salvation of eternal life with God. Christ our Lord assured us of the coming of the Holy Spirit as our Father’s promise (Acts 1:4-5), and that the Holy Spirit will give us protection as spiritual armor against evil.
When we Orthodox faithful recite the Jesus Prayer and keep God in our minds and hearts frequently, we are walking closer to God and allowing the Holy Spirit to strengthen us. So keep the Jesus Prayer in our minds and lips. Let Christ be our mediator and perfecter of faith in finding God. Let us always remember God in all things, God above all things, and God beside us.
Let us pray, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
Let us close with a 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.
Psalm 24 (23 Greek LXX)