Today is the feast of the Ascension of our Lord, and God, and Saviour Jesus Christ. A blessed and holy feast to you all!
Yesterday marked the close of the forty days of celebration of the Resurrection of the Lord. We read the Ninth Hour as the final service of the paschal season and, at my parish, we immediately changed the central icon from the Resurrection to that of the Ascension, as we began Great Vespers to herald the new day.
At Christmas we celebrated God becoming man and the great mystery of his uniting our fallen human nature to his divine nature. At the Ascension, we celebrate his taking that human nature into the heavenly state, elevating our humanity to God and opening the way for us to follow. So Ascension is the completion of what is begun at the Nativity. In fact, I sometimes wish that we referred to it as The Ascension according to the Flesh, as we do for the Nativity.
Our non-Orthodox friends have managed to calculate Easter and, therefore, Ascension at the correct time this year (and next year, as it happens). For this, they are to be congratulated, ☺ and in their honour, I offer two verses of one of my favourite childhood hymns, which we sang to In Babilone:
See the Conqueror mounts in triumph,
see the King in royal state,
riding on the clouds, his chariot,
to the heav'nly palace gate.
Hark, the choirs of angel voices
joyful Alleluias sing,
and the portals high are lifted
to receive their heavenly King.
Thou hast raised our human nature
on the clouds to God's right hand;
there we sit in heavenly places,
there, with Thee, in glory stand.
Jesus reigns, adored by Angels,
man with God is on the throne.
Mighty Lord, in thine Ascension,
we, by grace, behold our own.
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