This morning we gathered to celebrate the Divine Liturgy on this, the Feast Day of the Ascension. I really love these early morning Liturgies. With the world still drowsy with sleep, the birds chriping, the flowers in bloom, we join creation in praising our Lord for taking our human nature into heaven. Truly, He "is clothed with honor and majesty!"
"O Christ God, You have ascended in Glory,
Granting joy to Your disciples by the promise of the Holy Spirit.
Through the blessing they were assured
That You are the Son of God,
The Redeemer of the world!" -- Troparian of the Feast of the Ascension
In Fr. Schmemann's collection of radio addresses he had this to say about today's Feast:
"The feast of the Ascension is the celebration of heaven now opened to human beings, heaven as the new and eternal home, heaven as our true homeland. Sin severed earth from heaven and made us earthly and coarse, it fixed our gaze solidly on the ground and made our life exclusively earthbound....It is precisely on this day, on the feast of the Ascension, that we cannot fail to be horrified by this renunciation that fills the whole world...."
"Speaking about heaven [St. John Chrysostom] exclaims: 'What need do I have for heaven, when I myself will become heaven." Let the answer come from our ancestors, who called the church "heaven on earth." The essential point of both these answers is this: heaven is the name of our authentic vocation as human beings, heaven is the final truth about the earth. No, heaven is not somewhere in outer space beyond the planets, or in some unknown galaxy. Heaven is what Christ gives back to us, what we lost through our sin and pride..."
Fr. Thomas Hopko writes, "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."
Click HERE to see one of my favorite icons of the Ascension and to learn more about the Feast. The way the icon is written makes it it hard to tell if it is the Asecnsion or the Second Coming....
("Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven." Acts 1:11)