Ascending to New Heights: Humanity's Heavenly Ascent with Christ

· 4 min read

Today we celebrate one of the Great Feasts of Our Lord, the feast of His Ascension. I’ve noticed, even among liturgical Christian traditions, Ascension gets overlooked. I get it, we’re coming off of a 40 days fast, we’re now used to celebrating Christ’s Resurrection, Pentecost is in 10 days, and, come on, it's a Thursday—attending liturgy today just isn't going to be a priority for many. Ascension is so often treated as nothing more than a footnote of the resurrection story instead of an awe-inspiring event in and of itself - I find that sad because we’re missing a pivotal shift in our understanding of who we are as humans.

Christmas is a huge deal in the West, for both religious and secular folks, but let’s focus on the religious aspect. Church attendance is high and we’re excited to sing songs in expectation or celebration of the birth of Christ. If you ask any kid in church what Christmas is about, they’re going to tell you. God becoming man was a cosmic altering event. Divinity came from heaven to earth. How can Ascension even compare with that?

Before we dive into what this means for our human nature, let’s look at a practical side of the Ascension. If Christ hadn’t ascended to His throne in heaven, we wouldn’t have the “great high priest who has ascended into heaven,” and we would lack a sure faith in our humanity’s ability to go to heaven (Hebrews 4:14). Christ’s Incarnation is eternal, not something temporary - He took His flesh with Him. This continues the story - Christ became a human baby, lived among us, taught, healed, and raised the dead, suffered, was crucified, died, was buried, was physically raised from the dead, was seen and touched by His followers, and was raised before them to Heaven. He didn’t disappear, but was lifted up in His body. The Second Person in the Holy Trinity is human for all of eternity and we pray to Him not only as God but also as man!

And since the Resurrected Christ, in His human body, ascends from earth today and is seated at the right of the Father, our created humanity is now taken to heaven. I could go on and on, but I think St. Ephrem, the 4th Syrian father, details just how important today is far better than I could:

Do you see then to what height of glory human nature has been raised? Is it not from earth to heaven? Is it not from corruption to incorruption? How hard would not someone toil in order to become the intimate friend of a corruptible king here below? But we, although we were alienated and hostile in our intent by evil deeds, have not only been reconciled to God the Father, through our Lord Jesus Christ, but we have also soared aloft to sonship, and now our nature is worshipped in the heavens by every creature seen and unseen.

So the Ascension isn’t only a victory of God, but it is even more so a victory for all of humanity. We don’t just worship a God with a nature different from ours, but we worship a God who is also man and shares in our nature.

With that, I’ll leave you with the words of the great Orthodox theologian and priest, Fr. Georges Florovsky

By His Ascension the Lord not only opened to man the entrance to heaven, not only appeared before the face of God on our behalf and for our sake, but likewise “transferred man” to the high places. “He honored them He loved by putting them close to the Father.” God quickened and raised us together with Christ, as Saint Paul says, “and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:6). Heaven received the inhabitants of the earth. “The First fruits of them that slept” sits now on high, and in Him all creation is summed up and bound together. “The earth rejoices in mystery, and the heavens are filled with joy.”

Thom Crowe

About Thom Crowe

Thom was ordained a deacon in the Orthodox Church before joining the Anglican tradition, works in tech marketing marketing, is dad to a sweet little girl, and husband to a great wife who runs the Made Shop. He's an avid reader, beer aficionado, lover of theology and history, and insufferable coffee snob. Thom says he has a pretty happy life in Tulsa, OK.

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