Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Great Forty Days: From Easter Day to Ascension Day

Thoughts for Ascension Day from Dr Peter Toon

Jesus rose from the dead on Easter Sunday – not merely a spiritual resurrection but a truly bodily resurrection, that was very much more than resuscitation.

For Forty Days on various occasions and places he appeared to his apostles and disciples until his last appearance recorded in Acts 1, which was also his marvelous Ascension into heaven.

For ten days afterwards the apostles and disciples waited for the Gift promised by the Lord Jesus – the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, coming from the Father in the Name of the Lord Jesus, bearing his gifts and virtues for his Church.

So fifty days from Easter Day, at the Jewish Feast of Pentecost, and called Whit-Sunday by the western Church, the awaiting disciples received the Gift from above, the descent of the Holy Spirit (see Acts 2).And from this day the message of salvation in and by Christ was proclaimed in Jerusalem and throughout the surrounding world.

By his Ascension, the resurrected Jesus was exalted by the Father to his right hand on high and crowned as the Lord of lords and King of kings.

In his ascent and exaltation, the Lord Jesus did not lose or shed his human nature and body. He entered heaven – the sphere where the angels and archangels worshiped the Holy Trinity -- with his full humanity, now in a immortalized and glorified form, yet humanity still. And heaven was transformed by his arrival and session at the Father’s right hand. For now, as belonging fully and uniquely to the Second Person of the Trinity, humanity was in heaven and the Lord Jesus, as the One Person made known in two natures (divine and human) became the One Mediator between God and man. Within the Triune Life of the Holy Trinity was glorified human nature! An amazing thought and truth.

Previously the angelic hosts and choirs alone praised and magnified the Holy Trinity with their, “Holy, Holy, Holy,” but now joined to them was the human voice of the exalted Priest, Son of Man and Mediator. And through, in, by, and with him came also from now onwards a constant procession of redeemed and sanctified human beings, first the saints from the Israel of the Old Covenant and then the martyrs and saints of the Church of the New Covenant. So now in heaven the heavenly choir has both angelic and human voices and all joyfully sing to the one glory of the one God, who is the Blessed, Holy and Undivided Trinity.

Let us rejoice and be exceedingly glad that Heaven was eternally changed, was marvelously developed and expanded, through the Arrival and Coronation of Jesus, Messiah, Savior and Lord. It is now the most holy sphere and place whose entry is “through Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life” and in this place “there are many mansions” for the multitude of redeemed human beings.

So we ask: Why, O Why is the Festival of the Ascension so neglected today! It is the Festival without which the other Festivals cannot fulfill their meaning and purpose. For unless the Lord Jesus is exalted into heaven, there is no salvation, redemption, and beatification for human sinners whom he came to save.

Let us not talk of “the great fifty days” as do modern progressive liturgists and the clergy they have influenced, for this regrettably has become usually a way of neglecting or downplaying the Festival of the Ascension. Rather let us talk of FORTY plus TEN days so that we distinguish in the Christian Year the difference between the period from Easter to Ascension from that of Ascension to Whit-Sunday (Pentecost)!

Jesus is risen from the dead. Alleluia.
Jesus is exalted to the Father’s right hand. Alleluia.
Jesus has transformed heaven. Alleluia.
The Father sends the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, in Jesus’ Name. Alleluia.
Jesus will come to judge the living and the dead at the end of the age. Alleluia.

The Eve of Ascension Day 2006

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon MA., D.Phil (Oxford)

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