1. The Ascension gives the spirit of hope.
Who would have thought during the sufferings of the Cross, and what humiliations and scorn that were there, that He will end in that glory in the Resurrection and the Ascension and the sitting at the right hand of the Father?! Does not this give us the fullness of hope whenever we are surrounded by tribulations? Let us remember that after the sorrows of the Golgotha, there are the rejoicings of the Resurrection and the glories of the Ascension. All the problem lies in that it is a matter that needs faith, confidence and patience. There are people who are swallowed by tribulations whenever these happen to them, and their souls remain imprisoned inside the tribulations, as if there were no salvation!!
The lives of these people end in despair without hope, at the Golgotha; and if the story of Christ had ended with His crucifixion, we would have become the most miserable of men. But we rejoice because the story of the Crucifixion was followed with the Resurrection, then the Ascension. In the Resurrection it was possible to destroy death, but Christ still remained on earth. While in the Ascension, He is raised up over the earth, in glory, to heaven. The miracle of the Ascension gives us a kind of hope from two sides: The first one is meant for those who were scandalized by the Cross of our Lord and by the accompanying humiliations and sufferings, in that the riposte was first in the glory of the Resurrection, then in the glory of the Ascension. In that way, faith returned to those who had thought that everything ended with the Cross; and we have the hope that after every cross, there is resurrection and there is ascension. This hope accompanied the martyrs and the confessors in every generation.
The second side of hope is that we shall have the same: Therefore, as Christ ascended with a glorious body, so we also shall have a glorious body (Philippians 3:21). And as a
cloud took Him out of the sight of the Apostles in His Ascension, so we also shall come with Him on the clouds on the last day, “at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints” (1 Thess. 3:13), when “the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all” (Jude 14-15), when He will be “coming with clouds, and every eye will see him” (Rev. 1:7). “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 we shall always be with the Lord.” (1 Thess. 4:17) Verily how great is that hope!……
This hope teaches us patience and waiting for the Lord. Patience first in the realization of the promises of the Lord, patience in the sufferings of the cross, until the glories of the resurrection and the glories of the ascension are accomplished. Patience in the Ascension of the Lord leaving us with the body, until the word of the two angels to the Apostles on the day of the Ascension are fulfilled: “This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11) Such also was the patience which our fathers the Apostles had in waiting for the promise of the Lord to send to them the Holy Spirit.It is patience with hope. It is hope full of joy in the confidence of the fulfillment of the promises of the Lord, as the Apostle said: “rejoicing in hope” (Romans 12:12).
3. Promises of the Ascension
The Ascension of the Lord implied three promises: The first promise is the sending of the Holy Spirit to remain with us eternally. Thus He said to them in advance: “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 depart, I will send Him to you.” (John 16:7) And so it happened; and He sent to them the Holy Spirit ten days after His Ascension.
As for the second promise, it is His word to them: “I will not leave you orphans, I will come to you.” (John 14:18) And His word also: “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:20) He fulfilled this promise also, and is still fulfilling it. The beloved Saint John saw Him in the midst of the seven churches, (Rev. 1: 13-14), holding the angels of the seven churches “or their pastors”, in His right hand.
As for the third promise, it is His word to His Apostles: “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” (John 12:32) He draws us to Himself in order to lift us up to heaven, as He said: “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14: 2-3) Consequently, it is a promise that we shall be with Him, on earth and in heaven. On earth: “I am with you always”, and “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” (Matt. 18:20) And in heaven: “that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:3) And as the Apostle saint Paul said: “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 we shall always be with the Lord.” (1 Thess. 4:17) How great is that glory!……
4. With Him
He said to His Apostles: “that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:3) Not on earth, but in heaven. However on earth, prepare yourself in order to be in heaven. I was with you when I made Myself of no reputation, and you will be with Me when I enter into My glory. Whoever can conceive this truth, and that he will be with the Lord in the likeness of a glorious body, will indubitably respect his soul, and will not debase his soul with sin, but rather he will prepare his soul to inherit the kingdom. This glory with the Lord on the clouds and in heaven, will not be inherited by those who cling to dust, to material matters, to the earth, and those who love the world.
5. Treasures in Heaven
In the uplifting of the Lord to heaven, He has drawn our sights and our hearts also to heaven: Therefore it was said about the Ascension of the Lord to heaven that the Apostles: “looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up” (Acts 1:10). That is one of the heavenly lessons to us, that we should be steadfastly looking toward heaven where the Lord has ascended, and to heaven from where He will come to us in His second advent. Also we should be steadfastly looking toward heaven where all our emotions and our hopes are concentrated all the time, in His heavenly kingdom, as the Lord said: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt. 6:21) Those people who have all their treasures on earth, are poor, and therefore all their desires and all their hopes will be on earth. And when they leave the earth, they will not find anything.
As for the sons of God, they live always looking steadfastly toward heaven to which their hearts and all their desires cling. May therefore our thoughts be always lifted up toward heaven. They all mount there to be with the Lord, together with all the desires of our hearts and all our spiritual senses. And as the saint Apostle Paul said: “while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Cor. 4:18)
If we remain looking steadfastly toward heaven, looking to the things which are not seen, and all our treasure has become in heaven, then we shall say with the Apostle: ” having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.” (Philippians 1:23) In the Feast of the Ascension, our thoughts must be lifted upwards, to contemplate the heavens to which Christ has ascended, and His sitting at the right hand of The Fr.. In our contemplation of the heavens, we remember the word of the Lord: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt. 6:21)
Let your treasure therefore be in heaven; and may every person train himself to the blessing of the Ascension in his life; being lifted up from the material level to the spiritual level. His aspirations and his desires would be lifted up from the level of the body to the love of God. Whoever, with his heart and his thought, is lifted up from the level of the earth and material things, himself will deserve to ascend and to be with Christ. But those who cling to the earth and to material things, how can they ascend? It is clear, even from the material point of view: whenever a man is lifted up, the earth becomes small in his sight, and all the things in it are belittled, till they become as if they were nothing.
6. The Principle of Ascending
The Feast of the Ascension teaches us also the principle of ascending. Spiritual life, or life with the Lord, is a perpetual ascension, a constant development upwards, till we arrive at the life of perfection. It is a continuous relationship to heaven. The church tower gives us an idea about the direction upwards, toward heaven, and the ascension over the level of the earth and earthly things.