Catechism Thursday: Ascension

408480_361813890586455_1025685439_nIn the Church, besides the feast of Pascha, there are twelve great feasts celebrated throughout the liturgical year. Seven are feasts of our Lord and five are feasts of the Theotokos. One great feast is the Ascension of our Lord, which the Church celebrates forty days after Pascha. Every time we say the Creed at the Divine Liturgy we profess the belief in the ascension when we say:

He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father

Why is the feast of the Ascension so important for Catholics? So important the Fathers of the first two Ecumenical Councils included it in the Church’s profession of faith.

The importance of the feast is twofold. One, without the Ascension the promise of Christ to send the Holy Spirit would not be fulfilled. We read in John’s Gospel:

Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.  And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment:  concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

John 16: 7-11

So without the Lord’s Ascension into heaven the gift of the Holy Spirit would not be given by Christ on the day of Pentecost.

Secondly, the Ascension of our Lord in Heaven completes the Father’s plan for humanity. Through the Incarnation, Christ assumes our humanity and perfects it. Through His crucifixion, He atones for our sins. Through His death and resurrection He defeats death. Through His Ascension, He places humanity in the heights of heaven. Man’s nature ascends to heaven with Christ. He prefigures our own dwelling in heaven. Just as Christ is in heaven so to are we to dwell for ever united to God body and soul.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church  sums up the importance of the Ascension in numbers 665-667:

Christ’s Ascension marks the definitive entrance of Jesus’ humanity into God’s heavenly domain, whence he will come again (cf. Acts 1:11); this humanity in the meantime hides him from the eyes of men (cf. Col 3:3).

Jesus Christ, the head of the Church, precedes us into the Father’s glorious kingdom so that we, the members of his Body, may live in the hope of one day being with him for ever.

Jesus Christ, the head of the Church, precedes us into the Father’s glorious kingdom so that we, the members of his Body, may live in the hope of one day being with him for ever.

A beautiful and important feast in the life of Christ and His Church.

Troparion:

O Christ God, You have ascended in Glory,Granting joy to Your disciples by the promise of the Holy Spirit.Through the blessing they were assured that You are the Son of God,The Redeemer of the world!

Kontakion:

When You did fulfill the dispensation for our sake,And unite earth to Heaven:You did ascend in glory, O Christ our God, Not being parted from those who love You,But remaining with them and crying:I am with you and no one will be against you.

Apostolic Reading for the Feast:

In the first book, O Theophilos, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commandment through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. To them he presented himself alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days, and speaking of the kingdom of God. And while staying with them he charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me, for John baptized with water, but before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom of Israel?” He said to them, “it is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said,”Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” Then they returned from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away.

Acts of the Apostles 1:1-12

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