[Remember, you may follow Evening Prayer each day from Church of the Holy Cross at 6pm.
Go to https://www.facebook.com/holycrossdowntown and look for the day's EP. On Sundays, Bishop Jake Owensby offers Morning Prayer at 10am at https://www.facebook.com/epiwla/ and Holy Cross offers MP Sundays at 11am. Each of these services may be viewed as they premier or after the initial service time.]
ASCENSION SUNDAY - A - 20 LUKE 24, 44-53
Contained within the Calendar of the Church Year are Principal Feasts, Holy Days, Major Feasts and Fast Days. Ascension Day is a Principal Feast of the Church. Principal Feasts take precedence of any other day or observance (BCP, p.15).
The Ascension of Jesus took place forty days after Easter and falls on a Thursday. Because of it’s importance it can be transferred to the Sunday following. The Propers for the Day as well as the following Sunday speak of this significant event in the life of Jesus and the Church. What makes it important to us today?
Christ’ ascension into heaven marks the completion of his earthly ministry and his glorification. At his Incarnation Christ brought his divine nature to our human nature. At his Ascension, he has taken our human nature into heaven.
Jesus is our first Advocate that now sits at the right hand of God and intercedes on our behalf. At the Ascension, he instructed his disciples to wait for the second Advocate, the Holy Spirit, who would empower them to carry on His mission of bringing God to man and man to God.
Jesus’ commissioning of the Apostles and the promise of the coming Holy Spirit are the last words of Jesus on earth. The Apostles are to be witnesses of his glorification as well as his earthly life and resurrection as they proclaim the gospel. They are united to the ascended Jesus by the promised Spirit.
In his last earthly words to his followers, as recorded by St. Luke, Jesus opened the eyes of their hearts to understand the scriptures concerning him and God’s plan for the salvation of the world as he had previously done for the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus on the evening of his resurrection.
Luke/Acts contain accounts of the ascension but they also record the fact that the disciples were still in the dark about the true purpose of Jesus’ death and Resurrection. Despite all they had witnessed to this point, they ask an earthly question; “will you at this time restore dominion to
What they want to hear Jesus say is “now is the time for Him to really get down to business, the kind of business they had expected Messiah to conduct all along?” That is, to restore the fortunes of
and for Him to lead God’s people like David. They still do not as yet
understand what God is up to in Christ. Israel
They do not understand what God’s plan of reconciliation means or of the role of Christ in their bringing it to fulfillment. They were not expecting him to depart in such a dramatic fashion. They still have questions. Their faith is incomplete. They have not yet been baptized with the Holy Spirit.
Then, according to Luke, Jesus led them out as far as
and blessed them. As he did so, he ascended into heaven and out of their sight.
Like the women who stood stunned as they looked into the empty tomb, the
disciples stood there gazing into heaven. Bethany
Two angels appear, as they did to the women at the tomb, and move them along to take up the task they have been commissioned to do, to be witnesses of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, to preach the gospel and to make disciples of all nations.
After having seen Jesus ascend into heaven, the disciples make their way back to the
to wait. The “eyes of their hearts” were not yet opened to understanding all
that Jesus had done and said, and what their role would be in continuing His
mission. The promised Spirit would take care of that. Holy City
The disciples had been filled with fear by his death on the cross, and their faith in the resurrection had been hesitant, but now they gained such great strength from seeing the truth, that when the Lord went up to heaven, far from feeling sadness they experienced a great joy.
Why was the Ascension so important to the disciples and the early church and why does it remain important to us today?
At the Ascension Jesus commissioned his disciples to be Apostles, eyewitnesses of his “true person” (St. Leo The Great) that he “was truly born of the Virgin, truly suffered and died, and was now recognized as risen.”
At the Ascension, Jesus gave his disciples the promise of the coming Spirit that would lead them into all truth, strengthen them and encourage them to carry on his mission of reconciliation. The Holy Spirit would complete their faith and empower them to be the witnesses of all things concerning the Christ and God’s plan of salvation.
The Ascension of Jesus is just as important to us today as it was the early Church. The disciples would be baptized with the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. That is what they were waiting for. We who have been baptized into Jesus’ death and raised to new life in him through the waters of holy baptism have been sealed with the same Holy Spirit and empowered to continue the mission.
Moreover, the Ascension of Jesus has exalted our human nature into heaven. “For in the vast company of the blessed, human nature was exalted, passing beyond the realm of the angels to receive an elevation that would have no limit until it was admitted into the eternal Father’s dwelling, to share the glorious throne of Him whose nature it had been united in the person of the Son.”(St. Leo the Great)
At His Ascension, Jesus promised to be with us always, even to the end of the ages. “Just as Jesus ascended without leaving us, so too we are already with him in heaven, although his promises have not yet been fulfilled in our bodies.” (St. Augustine) Faith, Hope and Love unite us to Him.
Early icons of Jesus’ ascension are depicted in such a way that one cannot tell whether he is going into heaven or coming again to earth. The large stain glass window over the altar at Christ Church, St. Joseph is an example of this. This captures the profound truth that we are already living under His reign while awaiting his return.
Jesus came down from heaven, and it is He alone who has ascended into heaven, who now sits at the right hand of the Father and intercedes for us. Until He comes again and exalts us to that place where He Himself has gone, we, as Church are to remain rooted in scripture and active in mission for the sake of the gospel and to the glory of His name. AMEN+