- The Abbey of the Genesee - https://www.geneseeabbey.org -

May 30, 2019

Fr. Jerome Machar, OCSO

The Ascension of the Lord
Acts 1:1-11; Ephesians 1: 17-23; Luke 24:46-53

We extol you, O Christ, the Giver of life,
and we glorify your divine ascension
in your most pure body to heaven.

(Byzantine Exaltation)

Today is the 40th day since Easter. We have spent the last forty days remembering the waters of baptism that flowed over our heads, bringing us into the safety of the Barque of Peter, the Church. Like Moses of old, we have spent forty days upon cloud-cloaked Mountain where we received the Commandment of Love. Like Elijah, God has fed us the Bread of Life with which He chose to sustain on our forty-day journey to the Holy Mountain. Throughout these forty days, we have been taught by the Risen Lord concerning the coming of the Kingdom in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. With the disciples, we have watched the Lord being taken from our sight and with them, we look forward to the coming of the Spirit, the Gift of the Father.

Even though it was good and blessed for the disciples to be there on the Holy Mountain, they could not stay there. They were commanded to go down to Jerusalem and return to the Upper Room. There, where they first partook of the Bread of Life, they were to keep prayerful vigil as they awaited the descent of the Paraclete. When the Holy Spirit, the Bond of Love between the Father and Son descended upon them, they would be granted the strength they needed to endure the trials that they would experience as they undertook their mission of proclaiming the Good News. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, they would become witnesses for Christ who was raised from the dead and taken into heaven by the power and love of the Father. Just as the disciples were drawn into communion with the Triune God, we, too, are to serve the Lord with gladness and encourage one another to surrender to His authority and will.

God so loved the world that He sacrificed his only begotten Son so that all the children of Adam and Eve would be brought to the fullness of life. The image that was tarnished by the disobedience of First Adam was restored by the obedience of the Second. All who sin had driven apart would be reconciled by the Son who reflected the glory of the Father. Through Christ, we have been made beneficiaries of countless blessings and spiritual gifts. Following in the footsteps of the disciples, we must enter into prayerful vigil awaiting the outpouring of the Spirit that the Father has promised us in Christ. For forty days the Risen Savior has confirmed our faith in the victory of love over sin and death. He who is the Lord of Life descended into the realms of death so that we who are mortal may ascend the heights and walk in the Land of the Living.

Christ ascended into heaven from Bethany, which is near the Garden of Olives where he entered into his passion. If we wish to enter into our heavenly homeland we too must walk through the garden of suffering and sorrow. The glory of Christ is the joy of the Church, His Body. As he went forth to the embrace of his loving Father, we are sent forth to invite everyone we meet to enter into the communion of life and love with the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Having experienced the outpouring of the Spirit, we will find all our fears scattered, our sorrows allayed, and our hopes fulfilled. It was with this in mind that the apostle Paul prayed, “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people” (Eph. 1: 17-18). The Lord Jesus who accomplished his redemptive task continues to work through us. From his heavenly throne, He sent the Holy Spirit upon us so that we might accomplish the Father’s purposes. The Lord who ascended to the right hand of the Father has prepared a dwelling place for each of us in our heavenly homeland.

Christ’s Ascension is the enthronement of the Crucified and Risen Son of Man as the Lord of Lords and King of Kings., the risen and ascended Lord, the human race has entered into intimacy with God in a new and unheard-of way; man henceforth finds room in God forever. Christ’s Ascension did not imply a temporary absence from the world but rather inaugurated the new, definitive and in-suppressible form of his presence by virtue of his participation in the royal power of God. The words of Jesus became a treasure for the Church to guard and to proclaim, to meditate on and to live. We have ascended with Jesus Christ and are called to live on earth the very realities of heaven. The Ascension is also a bridge to another, new and intimate way the disciples will know and encounter the Lord.

You were born, our God, in a manner of your own choosing.
You appeared and suffered in the flesh as you willed.
Through Your resurrection you conquered death
and ascended into glory, fulfilling all things;
you sent down the divine Spirit upon us,
therefore in songs we praise your divinity.
(The oldest ascension hymn)