• Epistle Reading – Acts 20:16-18, 28-36
  • Gospel Reading – John 17:1-13
  • In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be!

    This past Thursday we celebrated one of the 12 major feasts of our Church—the Ascension of Christ into heaven. Christ’s Ascension to heaven is the final work of His earthly ministry. All that is to be revealed by Christ has now been deposited—His earthly ministry is complete. We say that the revelation has been deposited because everything about Christ wasn’t always completely understood by those around Him. Christ even says that His ministry would only be fully understood after the coming of the Holy Spirit, all of the meanings and realities were to be clarified by the indwelling of the Spirit. But with His Ascension in glory to the right hand of God the Father in Heaven, Christ’s earthly ministry is complete.

    We could talk forever about what Christ delivers to mankind in His Incarnation, but today we’ll focus specifically on some of the things revealed in the Ascension. [Every work of Christ reveals something of God to mankind, so our question for today: what is seen in the Ascension? And in the short time for a Liturgical homily, we can only just begin to touch on the answer to this question.] It’s not uncommon to find that people don’t pay very much attention to this particular Feast—it’s not as dramatic, somehow, as the Nativity (God’s coming down as compared to His going back up) or the Transfiguration (vision of God’s glory on the mountain as compared to his revelation of His glory by His raising up to heaven in the clouds). But in the New Testament, and in the services of the Church, the Ascension is mentioned in the lists of Christ’s saving activity—that He was received into glory, or that He returned to His Father.

    The Ascension has great meaning in our lives as Christians, because it’s directly connected to our deification, to our salvation in Christ. Christ reveals our ultimate goal with His Ascension to heaven, and He shows once again His divinity. For 40 days after His resurrection from the dead, our Lord is seen on earth with His disciples—He’s touched by some, He eats with them, He speaks with them. For 40 days He ensures that the Apostles and disciples understand that He has truly risen, He’s not a ghost or a figment of their imaginations. He was and is truly man, He truly died, and now He’s truly risen from the dead. And after 40 days of strengthening the faith of the Apostles by His presence, they then become the witnesses of His Ascension into Heaven to be seated at the right hand of God the Father.

    Some of our Fathers refer to the Ascension as the “crown of all the Feasts,” because here our human flesh is lifted up on the kingly throne of God. Human nature, humanity in all it’s fullness, with all it’s weakness, is deified—is joined to God in the Incarnation. And now with His glorious Ascension our humanity is taken to Heaven and seated at the right hand of the Father on the throne of the Godhead. This is the value of the Ascension; and the revelation of the Ascension.

    At the Incarnation, God assumes humanity, but mankind doesn’t recognize that in Christ, they see Him simply as a normal man (they don’t see His divinity, they don’t recognize what has happened to human nature in His person). But at the Ascension, man gained perfect knowledge of Christ. His divinity was revealed to all present, in the same way as it had been revealed to three of the Apostles on the Mount of Transfiguration. And not only is the nature of Christ fully revealed at the Ascension, but since He is our Prototype, our Example and our Way, He also reveals His will for all mankind, and the final place for the righteous (the Saints and the saved from all ages).

    Pascha destroys death for everyone; all mankind will be resurrected on the last day—some to judgment, and some to great reward. The impact of the Resurrection is universal. The Ascension then carries us to Heaven; but not everyone will participate in this event. We do not believe in universal salvation—this is one of the oldest heresies in the Christian Church, and is very popular today. But Christ is very clear in His earthly ministry (as were the Prophets before Him and the Saints after Him)—some people will choose to reject God for all of eternity, and these people will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. All will be resurrected from the dead, but not all will ascend to Heaven. Only those who are true followers of Christ—who are born with Him in baptism, who suffer with Him in this sinful world, who conquer the power of the devil through Him—only these will be resurrected in Christ and taken to the Father’s right hand and deified (united with God in eternal salvation).

    This is God’s will for all mankind, revealed in the life and ministry of Christ, and sealed by His glorious Ascension on the 40th day. And the strength and the mercy to do God’s will is sent 10 days later, next Sunday, when we’ll experience the indwelling grace of the Holy Spirit on the Feast of Holy Pentecost

    Glory to Jesus Christ!