Almighty God, your blessed Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, ascended far above all heavens, that he might fill all things. Mercifully give us faith to perceive that, according to his promise, he abides with his Church on earth, even to the end of the world; through the same your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Today is the Feast of the Ascension. The Ascension (Luke 24:44-53 / Acts 1:1-11) is probably not the best known of the feast days in the Church’s calendar, but it is one that takes on increasing depth and importance the more you think about it and experience it. In this feast, we are drawn into an event that has cosmic significance.
The Ascension is not about gravity, or the physical location of heaven, or any of that. It is about God. In fact, even though it comes toward the end of the season of Easter, the Ascension is most closely related in meaning to Christmas. At Christmas we celebrate the Incarnation, God becoming flesh and living among us.
What was begun at Christmas is brought full circle and proclaimed again in a different way at the Ascension. In the Incarnation, what it means to be God became fully a part of what it means to be a human being. In Jesus, the human and the divine become united in the person and life of one man. In the Ascension, this human being became fully a part of who God is.
It was not the spirit of Jesus, or the essence of Jesus, or the divine nature of Jesus, or the invisible part of Jesus, or the idea of Jesus, or anything like that, that ascended to the Father. It was the resurrected body of Jesus: a body that the disciples had touched, a body that ate and drank with them, a real, physical, but gloriously restored body-bearing the marks of nails and a spear. This humanity has become a living, participating part of Divinity.
The Ascension tells us that it is a good and holy thing to be a human. It is so good and holy a thing that God became human. The fullness of God now includes what it means to be a human being.
So we are able to approach God with confidence and with joy. Because we are not only dealing with the Creator of the universe and the Sovereign of all time and of eternity; we are also drawing near to the One who lived our life, has shared our fate, who knows us, and cares about us.
St. John Chrysostom expressed it in this way: “Through the mystery of the Ascension we, who seemed unworthy of God's earth, are taken up into heaven...Our very nature, against which Cherubim guarded the gates of Paradise, is enthroned today high above all Cherubim.”
Charles Wesley's Hymn for Ascension Day is also quite a beautiful expression of the meaning and implications of the Ascension.