God’s Ascension, Man’s Exaltation

by Rev. Romanos V. Russo

image Click for more images

Have you ever tried to look straight into the sun? The brightness of that created orb of light is so stunning that blindness results if we do not avert our gaze. What then can we say of the refulgent splendor of the mystery of Christ’s resurrection? Surely this uncreated brilliance lies beyond the ken of the eyes of our souls. Yet the Psalmist sings: “In Thy light shall we see the light.” (Ps. 35:9)

A prism! If you want to experience the lustre of pure natural light without having to dim your eyes before its power, refract that light through a prism and behold the colors of the rainbow! In the same way the Church takes the radiance of the Risen Christ and refracts it through the prism of her liturgical life.

Behold the mystery of the Risen Christ rendered accessible to the soul of man: contemplate Him as the liberator of Adam and Eve from sheol; ascending to the Father; and sending the Holy Spirit.

In doing this the Church follows the example of the Gospels. Compare the four accounts of the end of the Master’s sojourn among us in the flesh. Notice that in St. Luke’s account in Chapter 24 the entire mystery is presented in one breathless exclamation: the empty tomb, the announcement of the angels, the vesper meal with the pilgrims to Emmaus, the appearance to the Apostles, the promise of the Spirit, and the Ascension.

Read it once through and see if you don’t have the impression that all these events were experienced as one – in rapid, dizzying succession. After all, it was Eternity breaking down the wall of separation from the world of time. But later St. Luke himself – in the Acts of the Apostles – and the other evangelists came to contemplate the Mystery according to the prismatic pattern the Church would later adopt for its festal cycle: first Pascha (Easter), then the Ascension, and finally Pentecost.


“What is it we commemorate this day?” asks St. John Chrysostom of the Feast of the Ascension. The golden-mouthed Patriarch of Constantinople replies to his own question: “This day all mankind was restored to God.”

In the beginning when God created man “after His own image and likeness,” He planted a thirst in man’s heart that could be slaked only by God Himself. As St. Augustine said, “You have made our hearts for Thee, O Lord, and they shall not find their rest until they rest in Thee.” Though the fall deadened this appetite for Divinity, it did not destroy it utterly.

The Son of God emptied Himself of the Godhead so that His poverty could enrich our humanity with Divinity. He took upon Himself a human nature and united it to His Divine Person. By the Resurrection He destroyed human mortality; by His Ascension He brings back to the Father in His own Person His human nature – and ours. Listen again to Chrysostom:

We who were unworthy of earthly dignity now ascend to a heavenly kingdom, and enter into heaven, and take our place upon a royal throne; and this nature of ours, because of which the Cherubim guarded the gates of Paradise, this day sits high above the Cherubim…. This day they see our nature upon the royal throne, shining in immortal beauty and glory.

Post a Comment | Comments(0)

1 | 2 |

Tags: Christianity Easter Reflections/Inspirational