On the evening of May 12, the faithful will gather to celebrate the glorious feast of The Ascension of Christ to heaven.
And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. Now it came to pass, while He blessed them , that He was parted from them and carried up onto heaven. And they worshipped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple praising and blessing God. (Luke 24:50-53)
For us, like the Apostles, the Ascension should be a time of great joy. Perhaps at first thought, the feast of the Ascension does not produce the joy of Pascha or of Christmas. The tenderness and love for man expressed by God’s incarnation is almost inexpressible. At Christmas, our hearts are warmed and comforted by the angelic proclamation:
Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will toward men. We cry out, ?Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her king! And what fills the heart with more joy than the Paschal exclamation
Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!
How can the joy of Ascension even come close to the joy of Pascha or the Nativity?
There is a uniqueness to the Ascension that differentiates its character from the other feasts. Both the Incarnation and the Resurrection are great philanthropic acts of God for all of mankind. In His incarnation, God joins Himself to our Humanity. The incarnation is for all of mankind. Likewise, all are affected by the Resurrection. By His death and resurrection, Christ conquered death and gave the gift of resurrection to all. All will be resurrected on the day of Christ’s second coming. The unique joy of the Ascension is that it is our feast— the feast of the saints—the feast of those who believe. All will rise, righteous and unrighteous alike, but only those who believe will be taken up.
And those who have died in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus shall we always be with the Lord.? (I Thessalonians 4:16-17)
Ascension is for the family. It is the joy of the faithful. It is the assurance of family reunion. It is the restoration of our birthright. It is the gift of adoption and son-ship. It is the promise of heavenly homecoming. No wonder it is a feast of joy! Whereas nativity and Pascha are the means, Ascension is the culmination. So on this great feast—this feast of the family—let us emulate the Apostles and ?return to Jerusalem with great joy, continually in the temple praising and blessing God.