The Holy Feast of Ascension – by Pope Shenouda III
We celebrate two great feasts on a Thursday. The first great feast of the Lord is Great Thursday of the Holy Pascha, on which the Lord gave us the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. The second is the Feast of the Ascension of our Lord into Heaven, after He spent forty days with His disciples. This Thursday is also a Feast of the Lord called the Feast of Ascension.
By the Ascension of the Lord, we mean His bodily Ascension.
Because in His divinity, He is everywhere, He does not ascend nor descend. Therefore, in the Liturgy of St. Gregory we say “And You ascended into the heavens in the body…” This ascension is evidence that His Glorified Body is not subject to the earth’s gravitational laws. It is also evidence of His Divinity. He ascended before His disciples as they were looking. This scene strengthened their faith because the Lord not only resurrected using His Divine power, but He also ascended into heaven in front of them.
In His ascension to Heaven, He did not leave His church alone on Earth.
He told them before His ascension “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Mt. 28:20). Christ stayed with the church, and they did not feel His material presence only, but also His spiritual presence…He appeared to St. Paul the Apostle more than once. He also appeared to St. John the disciple on the Island of Patmos and gave him letters to the Seven Churches.
By His ascension, He sat on the right hand of His Father.
This is according to what was said in St. Mark’s Gospel “So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God.” (Mk. 16:19). Sitting on the right hand of God fulfilled God’s promise to Him in the Old Testament saying: “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.’” (Ps 110:1). This event was witnessed by St. Stephen the Archdeacon during the time of his martyrdom (Act 7:56). St. Paul the Apostle also spoke about this in his epistle to Hebrews (1:20; 8:1; 12:2).
And His ascension to Heaven, and sitting on the right hand of the Father, all that means the end of the statement “made Himself of no reputation.” (Phil 2:7).
The statement, “on the right hand of the Father” means in the power and holiness of the Father. God who fills all does not have a right and a left side like limited beings. However, the right means the power and holiness (Ps. 118:16). So, sitting on the right hand of the Father means ending making Himself of no reputation, and going back to the form of power that He gave up in His Incarnation. The statement “sat” means settled, meaning that He will not go back to being of no reputation again. Therefore, in His second coming He will come in power and great glory (Mt. 25:31).
Moreover, the ascension of the Lord Christ to Heaven makes us direct our sights to Heaven where He is and where He was before His incarnation.
The statement “to Heaven” means to the highest, and so our sights rise up there when we pray. And so do the church towers and aim for the Heaven.
The Lord’s ascension is also a guarantee of our ascension.
Not now, but when He catches us up in His second coming and “we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17). When He “will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body.” (Phil. 3:21). But not now as many think that we are now in Heaven on the right hand of the Father! We congratulate you all on the occasion of this Great Feast of the Lord.
Content from the book “The Holy Feast of Ascension” by H.H. Pope Shenouda III