How important is the Ascension of Christ?

May 23, 2017

How important is the Ascension of Christ?

I want to begin by wishing all of you a blessed 50 holy days where we celebrate the Lord’s Resurrection and even now, as come closer to the end of the 50 days, we will celebrate the blessed feast of the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ and the days to come. Today therefore, we want to take a moment to meditate on why the Lord’s Ascension is considered such an important feast in the eyes of the Coptic Orthodox Church. For this to make any sense to us, let us take the time to step back and see the Ascension as part of God’s breath-taking and sacrificial plan for all of us.

Let’s turn to the Prophet Malachi for just a moment to see what we can learn from his Prophecy in chapter 1 verses 6 to 8: “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am the Father, where is My honor? And if I am a Master, where is My reverence? Says the Lord of hosts to you priests who despise My name. Yet you say, ‘In what way have we despised Your name?’ 7 “You offer defiled food on My altar, but say, ‘in what way have we defiled You?’ By saying, ‘The table of the Lord is contemptible.’ 8 And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, Is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, Is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you favorably?” Says the Lord of hosts.

What we realize here is that humanity was never capable of offering a true and perfect offering to God. Our offerings were always, in one way or another, lacking. Therefore, when the Trinity came to offer its sacrifice for the sake of humanity, it gave up the most perfect of offerings – Christ the Word of God Incarnate.

Someone may ask “why are we speaking of sacrifice – I thought this subject was closed after passion week?!” Well in reality when we speak of sacrifice we also speak of salvation and redemption. And we ought to know that God’s purpose was not only to offer sacrifice, but also to renew humanity and to reconcile all human beings to Himself. And this was done by Christ through His incarnation, birth, baptism, ministry, betrayal, crucifixion, death, resurrection, and ascension! All of these were the process that He undertook to bring you and I back to Him and to save us. The Ascension therefore my beloved is the completion of that perfect and acceptable sacrifice, and not only the sacrifice, but also the completion of the plan of salvation.

What St. Stephen saw in Acts chapter 7 as he was about to be stoned, when the heavens were opened before him, was our Lord Jesus Christ ascending in the flesh sitting at the right hand of God. By taking a body like ours and sitting it next to the God the Father, the Lord Jesus Christ has truly reconciled humanity to God. Now this is crucial for us to understand. All that the Lord has done, He has done so that we may be able to also do! He has risen and conquered death so that we may do the same. But this was not all! He could not end there at resurrection alone! He has also ascended into the heavens so that you and I may also be able to do the same, that we may also have a place there with the Father. And this is what he said he would do when telling His disciples in John chapter 14 that He “goes and prepares a place for us”.

The ascension my beloved therefore becomes a magnificent feast for all Christians because it is here that humanity’s hope for possible reconciliation with God is complete. It is here in this glorious feast that the gates of heaven are made accessible to all of humanity through Christ Jesus. To better understand this, let us read together what St. Cyril of Alexandria has to say on the matter:

For in times of old, heaven was utterly inaccessible to mortals, and no flesh yet had ever traveled that pure and all-holy realm of the angels. But Christ was the first who consecrated for us the means of access to himself and granted to flesh a way of entrance into heaven. He did this by presenting himself as an offering to God the Father, the first fruits of those who are asleep (1 Cor. 15:20) and are lying in the tomb, and by presenting himself as the first human being that ever appeared in heaven.… For Christ, did not ascend on high in order to present himself before the presence of God the Father. He always was and is and will be continually in the Father, in the sight of him who begat him. […] He has presented himself therefore as man to the Father on our behalf so that he may restore us again, as it were, to behold the Father’s face… COMMENTARY ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN 9.21

My beloved, St. Cyril is telling us that the even the Ascension of Christ was done for you and me. By Christ, you and I can now also have a place in heaven. It is for this very reason the Church has the believer recite the Orthodox creed daily and say, “who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and of the Virgin Mary, and became man. And He was crucified for us under Pontiffs Pilate, suffered and was buried; and on the third day He rose from the dead, according to the Scriptures. Ascended into the heavens, He is seated at the right hand of His Father.” Why??? For us men and for our salvation!

The Ascension my beloved therefore is a feast of personal hope! One where we can turn to our Lord and say “through your ascension you have prepared a place for me to dwell with God for all of eternity.”

A blessed feast to you all my beloved. Christ is risen from the dead and has ascended into the heavens.

Remember know your faith, live your faith and

teach your faith

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