IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER, AND OF THE SON, AND OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. AMEN.
The Ascension of the Lord into Heaven is the culmination of Christ’s life, that life in which our deification is found. The Ascension of the Lord into Heaven is the crown to every other activity within the life of our Saviour because it is the clearest and final revelation of God’s love wherein the second person of the Trinity united Himself to humanity, redeemed that humanity through the Cross and Resurrection, and then raised it up to sit at the right hand of the Father in Heaven. The resurrection and Ascension of Christ is our resurrection and ascension. This is what the Apostles witnessed when they saw the Lord for the last time while in Bethany at the Mount of Olives as they looked upon him ascending into the heavens.
In the Gospel reading which we heard today and in the selection from the Acts of the Apostles, we are told about Christ’s appearances after His Resurrection, how He revealed to His Disciples that the post-resurrectional Him was truly Him. He showed them His hands, His feet, His side; He ate broiled fish and honeycomb with them. He did this for forty days at the end of which, He brings them to Bethany and there is taken up into the air, blessing them as He goes, and is taken into Heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father. Afterward, two angels appeared to them and announced that Christ would return the same way they saw him leave. Days later, the protomartyr Stephen witnesses to where Christ is, when, as he is being stoned, “looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, And said [to his persecutors] ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.’” (Acts 7.55-56)
The Confirmation of His Divinity
The Ascension reveals Christ’s divine nature.
Throughout His life, Christ continually taught His disciples that He came from the Father, that He was the Son of God, that He was one with the Father, always teaching them about His Divine nature. In the Gospel of John, Christ says, “no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.” (3.3) “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.”(14.1); “I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father.” (16.28); “If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also” (14.7); “Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me.” (14.11) And time after time we hear about the doubts of the Apostles, their lack of faith, and their fear, especially after His crucifixion.
Despite the many ways and means Christ revealed His divine nature time, and again, He tells the disciples that after His Ascension, it will be confirmed in them. “At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you”(John 14.20); and again, “But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them.” (John 16.4)
It was not His teachings which had convinced them, nor His miracles, not even His Resurrection, but they fully understood the Gospel message only after the Ascension.
The Ascension is the final proof that Christ came down from Heaven from the Father because He ascended back to heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father revealing what He always was – the God-man Jesus Christ.
A Body, having gone through the Passion
The Ascension reveals Christ’s love for mankind.
What is also distinctive about this event is not only that Christ ascended and sat at the right hand of the Father but that before then, there was no human nature in Heaven. “In the same way as He came down, without changing place but condescending to us,” says St. Gregory Palamas, so He returns once more, without moving as God, but enthroning on high our human nature which He had assumed.” Not only can our own resurrection unto life be realized because of Christ’s Resurrection, but we will also ascend to our eternal home because Christ prepared the way, or as the Apostle Paul wrote, “we shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” (1 Thess. 4.17) and “ In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” (John 14.2)
Moreover, the body of Christ is a unique body because he still bears the marks of His crucifixion in His glorified body. The Prophet Isaiah alludes to the same when he calls Christ’s “marks” a “dyed garment,” writing,
“Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel, traveling in the greatness of his strength? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save. Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winevat?” (63.1-2)
Or, as Joshua Spaulding would re-write these verses,
Who is this that comes from far
With his garments dipp’d in blood,
Strong, triumphant traveller –
Is He man or is He God?
I that reign in righteousness,
Son of God and man I am;
Mighty to redeem your race,
Jesus is your Saviour’s name.
These “marks” on Christ’s glorified, post-resurrectional body, however, are no marks of shame, or deformity, or disfigurement. Interpreting the above passage of the Prophet, St. Gregory the Theologian speaks of the drama of Christ’s ascent to the Father whereby He passes by the angels who are amazed at Him and bewildered because of these marks on is body: “Who is this that comes from Edom and from the things of the earth? How are the garments red of Him who is without blood or body, as one that treads the wine press?” Christ retains these tokens of His passion which He had not when He came down, therefore the angels inquire, “Who is this King of Glory? It is the Lord strong and mighty.” Christ’s body is one that suffered and now is “adorned by the Passion, and made splendid by the Godhead and nothing can be more lovely or more beautiful.”
St. Nicodemus the Hagiorite says that the marks remained on His body to show the great love which Christ has for mankind.
The Elevation of Humanity
Thirdly and finally, the Ascension reveals humanity’s place in Heaven.
It is not the Godhead that is raised to Heaven, for the Son always remains in the Father’s bosom. No, it is humanity and Christ’s hypostatic union to it that is assumed and ascends with Him to the throne in Heaven.
“[The Word of God] has now revealed through His actions a cause for celebration even more distinctly superior than Pascha’s excellence,” says St. Gregory Palamas. “For we now celebrate the transition of our nature in Him, not just from the subterranean regions up on to the earth, but from earth to the heaven of heavens, and to the throne above the heavens of Him who rules over all.”
The Ascension of Christ reveals mankind’s proper environment, the place where he is meant to reside, the true home, Paradise, that better country, a city prepared for us by God.
How should we then live?
How should we then live?
The Evangelist Luke writes that after the disciples witness the Ascension, they depart not with sorrow or dejection because they are now separated from their Lord, but, he says, “they returned to Jerusalem with great joy and were continually in the temple praising and blessing God.” (24.52-53)
“The Lord ascended from us into heaven, not in order to grieve us with His departure,” says St. John of Kronstadt, “but in order to arrange for us what is most beneficial. All His life, all His deeds were for our benefit, for our salvation; likewise, His ascension was for our good. As loving us, He descended to us from heaven and, having lived with people, laid down His soul on the cross for them, so loving us, He ascended to heaven, doing good to us.”
Therefore, we also should expect only the benefits from God, despite loneliness, or abandonment, or isolation from God. Expect spiritual consolation, which is not comparable to what the world can offer. For we should wait on the Lord in prayer not forgetting to praise God and bless Him for the goodness He bestows on us.
“Watch and pray that you enter not into temptation,” says the Lord (Matt. 26.41).
“They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint,” writes the Prophet Isaiah (40.31)
Paul and Silas, when preaching the Gospel in Philippi, were arrested, whipped, and their feet were placed in stocks, yet at midnight they were found in the prison singing and praising God (cf. Acts 16.12-40).
However, perhaps we struggle to pray amidst life’s trials, let alone rejoice in the Lord. Then listen to the advice of St. Mark the Ascetic:
My son, this is how you should begin your life according to God. You should continually and unceasingly call to mind all the blessings which God in His love has bestowed upon you in the past, and still bestows for the salvation of your soul. You must not let forgetfulness of evil or laziness make you grow unmindful of these many and great blessings, and so pass the rest of your life uselessly and ungratefully. For this kind of continual recollection, pricking the heart like a spur, moves it constantly to confession and humility, to thanksgiving with a contrite soul, and to all forms of sincere effort, repaying God through its virtue and holiness.
Fathers and Brothers, Mother, and sisters, may God grant us thankfulness; may God grant us to pray without ceasing, and may He fill our hearts with joy on this crowning Feast of the Ascesion as we see our humanity united to Him and raised to sit with the Father in Heaven, where we are meant to be.
THROUGH THE PRAYERS OF OUR HOLY FATHERS, LORD JESUS CHRIST, HAVE MERCY ON US. AMEN.
 Saint Gregory Palamas: The Homilies. (Essex: Mount Thabor Publishing, 2014), 171.
 “Select Orations of Saint Gregory Nazianzen,” #45 in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Philip Schaff and Henry Wace eds. (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1999), 7:432 (45.25).
 As quoted by Metropolitan Hierotheos, The Feasts of the Lord: An Introduction to the Twelve Feasts and Orthodox Christology. (Levadia-Hellas: Birth of the Theotokos Monastery, 2000), 298.
 Saint Gregory Palamas, 171.
 “Letter to Nicholas the Solitary,” in The Philokalia: The Complete Text, G.E.H Palmer, Philip Sherrard, Kallistos are, trans and eds. (London-Boston: Faber and Faber, 1979), 1:148.