a collect for Ascension Day:
Grant, we pray, Almighty God, that as we believe your only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended into heaven, so we may also in heart and mind there ascend, and with him continually dwell; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen
1:1 In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning
1:2 until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen.
1:3 After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
1:4 While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me;
1:5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
1:6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?”
1:7 He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority.
1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
1:9 When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.
1:10 While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them.
1:11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
47:1 Clap your hands, all you peoples; shout to God with loud songs of joy.
47:2 For the LORD, the Most High, is awesome, a great king over all the earth.
47:3 He subdued peoples under us, and nations under our feet.
47:4 He chose our heritage for us, the pride of Jacob whom he loves. Selah
47:5 God has gone up with a shout, the LORD with the sound of a trumpet.
47:6 Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises.
47:7 For God is the king of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm.
47:8 God is king over the nations; God sits on his holy throne.
47:9 The princes of the peoples gather as the people of the God of Abraham. For the shields of the earth belong to God; he is highly exalted.
1:15 I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason
1:16 I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers.
1:17 I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him,
1:18 so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints,
1:19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.
1:20 God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,
1:21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come.
1:22 And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church,
1:23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
24:44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you–that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.”
24:45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures,
24:46 and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day,
24:47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
24:48 You are witnesses of these things.
24:49 And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
24:50 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them.
24:51 While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven.
24:52 And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy;
24:53 and they were continually in the temple blessing God.
Excerpts from a sermon by Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury:
Jesus ascends to heaven. The human life in which God has made himself most visible, most tangible, disappears from the human world in its former shape and is somehow absorbed into the endless life of God. And our humanity, all of it, goes with Jesus. When St Paul speaks of Christ ‘filling all in all’, as we heard in the epistle (Ephesians 1.15—end), we must bear in mind that picture: Jesus’ humanity taking into it all the difficult, resistant, unpleasant bits of our humanity, taking them into the heart of love where alone they can be healed and transfigured….Jesus has gone before us into the darkest places of human reality. He has picked up the sounds that he hears. And think of what those sounds are: the quiet cries of the abused child; the despairing tears of a Sri Lankan in these last few days, surrounded and threatened by two different kinds of mindless violence. He picks up the cry of the hungry and the forgotten. He hears the human beings that nobody else hears. And he calls to us to say, ‘You listen too’. He makes his own the cynical dismissal of faith by the sophisticated, and sees through it to the underlying need. He makes his own the joy and celebration and thanksgiving of human beings going about their routine work and finding their fulfilment in ordinary prosaic, bog-standard love and faithfulness. All of that is taken ‘to the throne of Godhead, to the Father’s breast’. All of that on the throne of eternity in the burning heart of truth and reality.
|Excerpt from a sermon by Saint Augustine of Hippo, Bishop
No one has ever ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven
Today our Lord Jesus Christ ascended into heaven; let our hearts ascend with him. Listen to the words of the Apostle: If you have risen with Christ, set your hearts on the things that are above where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God; seek the things that are above, not the things that are on earth. For just as he remained with us even after his ascension, so we too are already in heaven with him, even though what is promised us has not yet been fulfilled in our bodies. Christ is now exalted above the heavens, but he still suffers on earth all the pain that we, the members of his body, have to bear. He showed this when he cried out from above: Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? and when he said: I was hungry and you gave me food. Why do we on earth not strive to find rest with him in heaven even now, through the faith, hope and love that unites us to him? While in heaven he is also with us; and we while on earth are with him. He is here with us by his divinity, his power and his love. We cannot be in heaven, as he is on earth, by divinity, but in him, we can be there by love. He did not leave heaven when he came down to us; nor did he withdraw from us when he went up again into heaven. The fact that he was in heaven even while he was on earth is borne out by his own statement: No one has ever ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man, who is in heaven. These words are explained by our oneness with Christ, for he is our head and we are his body. No one ascended into heaven except Christ because we also are Christ: he is the Son of Man by his union with us, and we by our union with him are the sons of God. So the Apostle says: Just as the human body, which has many members, is a unity, because all the different members make one body, so is it also with Christ. He too has many members, but one body. Out of compassion for us he descended from heaven, and although he ascended alone, we also ascend, because we are in him by grace. Thus, no one but Christ descended and no one but Christ ascended; not because there is no distinction between the head and the body, but because the body as a unity cannot be separated from the head.
Excerpts from a homily by Fr. Philip LeMasters
Sometimes we are all set our sights too low, expecting too little of ourselves and others. When we do so, we sell ourselves short and do a disservice not only to ourselves but to everyone around us. When we aim low, we can’t expect to achieve high goals. The season of the Ascension is a powerful antidote to such low expectations, for it reveals the great glory and dignity that Jesus Christ has given us. Through His Ascension, we are raised with Him literally to the heights of the heavenly Kingdom.
…And we are reminded by the Ascension that Jesus Christ is not merely a great teacher or example or even an angel or lesser god. As the Fathers of the Council of Nicaea proclaimed, He is light of light, very God of very God, of one essence with the Father, the only begotten Son of God. For only One who is truly divine and eternal can ascend into heaven and bring us into the divine, eternal life of the Holy Trinity.For only One who is truly both God and human can bring humans into the life of God….Unfortunately, some have set their sights too low in how they view Jesus Christ and themselves. If we want a Saviour who merely teaches and models a good life or advances a political agenda, we might become a bit more moral by listening to Him. But human teachers and examples cannot conquer death and cannot raise us with them into eternal life. There apparently always have been, and continue to be, those who want a Lord in their own image: a teacher of secret spiritual truths to a select few; a social or political activist of whatever ideology; or a rabbi or philosopher who speaks with wisdom. Movies, documentaries, and books come out all the time with the claim to have discovered a true or secret Jesus who is different from the Lord portrayed in Scripture and confessed in the Church.
…The Son prayed to the Father that His followers “may be one as We are…that they all may be one, as You, Father are in Me, and I in You; that they may also be one in Us, …that they may be one just as We are one…”
Here is a very high, very exalted view of what it means to be a human being in the image and likeness of God. In Christ’s Body, the Church, we are to be one in Him, showing forth the unity of holiness and love that are characteristic of the Holy Trinity. Christ has given us His glory, a share in life eternal, the life to which He has ascended as the Saviour of the world. And that glory, that eternal life, is not an individual undertaking; it is the life of unity in Christ, of His Body, of which we are all members by baptism.
…Instead of recognizing that our salvation is a life together in the Body of Christ, we try to live as isolated individuals, continuing the division from one another that has beset humanity since Adam and Eve.It might be possible to follow the guidance of a teacher in isolation from others, on our own terms, according to whatever private interpretations seem right to us. But it is impossible to embrace the fullness of life in our Risen and Ascended Lord in isolation or as though our faith means whatever we want it to mean. We can interpret the words of a merely human teacher however we want, but the One Who has conquered death and ascended into heaven requires something different. The point is not to make Him in our image, to water Him down into someone Whom we can accept and understand on our own terms. Instead, the point is to fall before Him in worship, to accept in humility the great blessing of the resurrected, ascended life which He gives us, and to live faithfully in the unity of the Church as we grow in Him.
…Let us make of our life in the Church an icon of the Holy Trinity, a Communion of love and holiness.Yes, we really can live this way because we are not simply following the teachings of a human being; instead, we are participating even now in the eternal life of the One Who has conquered death, the tomb, and hades, and taken our humanity into heaven. If Jesus Christ can do that, we may put no limits on what He can do with our lives, our families, our marriages, our friendships, our relationships with other people, or anything else. For the Lord has ascended into heaven, and He will take us with Him….This is not a message for a few select souls, but good news for the entire world.
And have the bright immensities Howard Chandler Robbins (1876-1952)
|And have the bright immensities
Received our risen Lord
Where light-years frame the Pleiades
And point Orion’s sword?
Do flaming suns His footsteps trace
Through corridors sublime,
The Lord of interstellar space
And Conqueror of time?
|The heaven that hides Him from our sight
Knows neither near nor far:
An altar candle sheds its light
As surely as a star;
And where His loving people meet
To share the gift divine,
There stands He with unhurrying feet,
There heavenly splendors shine.