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Ascension

Jesus did not live with his dis­ci­ples after his res­ur­rec­tion as he had before his death. Filled with the glo­ry of his divin­i­ty, he appeared at dif­fer­ent times and places to his peo­ple, assur­ing them that it was he, tru­ly alive in his risen and glo­ri­fied body.

To them he pre­sent­ed him­self alive after his pas­sion by many proofs, appear­ing to them dur­ing forty days, and speak­ing of the King­dom of God (Acts 1:3).

It should be not­ed that the time span of forty days is used many times in the Bible and sig­ni­fies a tem­po­ral peri­od of com­plete­ness and suf­fi­cien­cy (Gen 7:17; Ex 16:35, 24:18; Judg 3:11; 1 Sam 17:16; 1 Kg 19:8; Jon 3:4; Mt 4:2). On the for­ti­eth day after his passover, Jesus ascend­ed into heav­en to be glo­ri­fied on the right hand of God (Acts 1:9–11; Mk 16:19; Lk 24:51). The ascen­sion of Christ is his final phys­i­cal depar­ture from this world after the res­ur­rec­tion. It is the for­mal com­ple­tion of his mis­sion in this world as the Mes­sian­ic Sav­iour. It is his glo­ri­ous return to the Father who had sent him into the world to accom­plish the work that he had giv­en him to do (Jn 17:4–5).

… and lift­ing his hands he blessed them. While bless­ing them, he part­ed from them and was car­ried up into heav­en. And they returned to Jerusalem with great joy. … (Lk 24:51–52).

The Church’s cel­e­bra­tion of the ascen­sion, as all such fes­tal cel­e­bra­tions, is not mere­ly the remem­brance of an event in Christ’s life. Indeed, the ascen­sion itself is not to be under­stood as though it were sim­ply the super­nat­ur­al event of a man float­ing up and away into the skies. The holy scrip­ture stress­es Christ’s phys­i­cal depar­ture and his glo­ri­fi­ca­tion with God the Father, togeth­er with the great joy which his dis­ci­ples had as they received the promise of the Holy Spir­it who was to come to assure the Lord’s pres­ence with them, enabling them to be his wit­ness­es to the ends of earth (Lk 24:48–53; Acts 1:8–11; Mt 28:20; Mk 16:16–14).

In the Church the believ­ers in Christ cel­e­brate these very same real­i­ties with the con­vic­tion that it is for them and for all men that Christ’s depar­ture from this world has tak­en place. The Lord leaves in order to be glo­ri­fied with God the Father and to glo­ri­fy us with him­self. He goes in order to “pre­pare a place” for and to take us also into the blessed­ness of God s pres­ence. He goes to open the way for all flesh into the “heav­en­ly sanc­tu­ary … the Holy Place not made by hands” (see Hebrews 8–10). He goes in order send the Holy Spir­it, who pro­ceeds from the Father to bear wit­ness to him and his gospel in the world, mak­ing him pow­er­ful­ly present in the lives of disciples.

The litur­gi­cal hymns of the feast of the Ascen­sion sing of all of these things. The antiphonal vers­es of the Divine Litur­gy are tak­en from Psalms 47, 48, and 49. The tropar­i­on of the feast which is sung at the small entrance is also used as the postÃ?communion hymn.

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).