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Lindemann on the Ascension of Our Lord

by revalkorn ~ June 6th, 2011

My apologies for getting this up too late for this year.


When dear ones are separated from us, we sorrow even though we know that they have gained immeasurably by their departure. Therefore we would imagine that the Church observes our Lord’s Ascension regretfully and sorrowfully. However, she celebrates it as a feast of limitless joy, a double joy, joy as regards ourselves and our Lord.

This day is a triumph for Christ, a festival of victory. He amply deserves this triumph. Leaving His Father’s throne, He humbled Himself to be born of the Virgin, lay in the crude stable of Bethlehem, fled to Egypt from His own people, lived in retirement as a mechanic at Nazareth, traveled to exhaustion throughout the Jewish land, to lead the lost sheep back to the fold. He experienced much misunderstanding and lovelessness at the hands of His brethren. Finally He suffered the physical and mental anguish of the Passion from Gethsemane to Golgotha. Why all this? Because He loved us. For what purpose? To purchase our freedom from the power of the devil and to lead us home into the heavenly fatherland. To this work He devoted all His love, His heart’s blood, everything. This work is now completed. Today He may look back joyfully upon His finished life’s work. He returns to heaven as Victor, appears before the Father as the Son, and gives account of His completed work. We may say that this day is the festival of the human Christ’s Ascension to the throne and of His crowning as the King of heaven and earth.

This day is a feast of gladness also for us. Our Brother’s glorification by His Ascension is also the elevation of our human nature, our glorification. Our human nature participates in the highest divine honor. Christ entered heaven in His human body, He sits on God’s throne in His human nature, and our Brother will occupy this throne to all eternity. This is an overwhelming distinction for us. One of us, our Head, sits upon the throne of God, and thereby we, the members of His mystical body, are deified. The Proper Preface declares: … That He might make us partakers of His divine nature.” A divine nobility is conferred upon us. But there is also a strong imperative, a demand: the Sursum Corda. Sin does not ascend to heaven with Christ but is a bond that attaches to earth. We must break this bond of sin. First we must ascend to heaven with our hearts and wills and desires; then we shall follow our Lord into heaven according to body and soul.

The Propers for the day all bear upon the event celebrated. The Introit, quoting from the Epistle, not only announces the Ascension by inference but immediately adds the ever-present assurance that He will come again. The first Collect bases our petition upon a direct, simple confession of faith; the second on the promise to send the Comforter. The Epistle is the narrative of the historic fact. The Holy Gospel briefly records the Ascension and Enthronement and records the parting commission.

The Introit. “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? Alleluia! This same Jesus which is taken up from You into heaven shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven. Alleluia! Alleluia! Oh, clap your hands all ye people! Shout unto God with the voice of triumph!”

A charming picture is presented. The Apostles look up to heaven. Since Christ ascended, the Church fixes her eyes there, looks longingly until He comes again. Also here the longing for Christ’s return breaks through. We sing from the Ascension Psalm, the Forty-seventh, which dominates the Liturgy: “Clap your hands, all people!”

The Collect. “Grant, we beseech Thee, Almighty God, that like as we do believe Thine only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to have ascended into the heavens, so may we also in heart and mind thither ascend and with Him continually dwell; who liveth,” etc.

Or: “O King of Glory, Lord of hosts, who didst this day ascend in triumph far above all heavens, we beseech Thee, leave us not comfortless, but send to us the Spirit of Truth, promise of the Father; O Thou who with the Father and the Holy Ghost livest,” etc.

The first may be paraphrased: We pray that we may ascend in heart and mind and continually live with Christ, as we believe that He has ascended into the heavens. It is much like the Fifth Petition of the Our Father, where our seeking forgiveness is based on our own forgiving spirit. Dogma and morals are here shown in close relation. We ask that we may be reunited with our Lord. Even while still sojourning here on earth, we must live with heart and spirit in heaven. The measure of our faith in our ascended Lord and His blessed promises will be revealed by our life of service.

The second Collect is the beautiful Antiphon at the Magnificat in the Second Vespers, which the Venerable Bede is said to have repeated on his deathbed. Leave us not comfortless, leave us not orphans. Separated from Christ we are orphans. We ask for the help and presence of the other Comforter to supply to us the presence of Christ, to guide, protect, and save.

The Epistle (Acts 1:1-11). This narrative of the historic fact repeats the promise of the Holy Spirit and imposes the office of witnessing in all the world. As at His coming the angels of heaven spoke to those looking up, so at His leaving the earth they carry the message of promise. In that hope the Church lives and witnesses.

The Gradual. “Alleluia! Alleluia! God is gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet. Alleluia! Thou hast ascended on high. Thou hast led captivity captive. Alleluia!”

The Proper Sentence. “Alleluia! Christ, our Passover, is sacrificed for us. Alleluia!”

The Gospel (St. Mark 16:14-20). Here is recorded the Lord’s parting commission to go into all the world and preach the Gospel. Also briefly the Ascension and the Enthronement. But the Holy Gospel carries farther in that it tells of the Commission fulfilled and blessed, in the inspiration of the ascended Lord, absent yet ever present, gone away yet with them always.

If the Paschal Candle was lighted at Easter, it is extinguished after the reading of the Holy Gospel, as a sign that Christ has now withdrawn His visible presence from the earth.

The Proper Preface. “Who after His resurrection appeared openly to all His disciples and in their sight was taken up into heaven that He might make us partakers of His divine nature.”


The Epistle puts before us not so much a doctrine as a fact established on the evidence of eyewitnesses. No such evidence was necessary to establish the Resurrection, for to have seen Christ alive after His death was sufficient proof that He had risen again. We may best consider the Epistle as exhibiting:

The Evidence of Our Lord’s Ascension

A. The Evidence of the Evangelist. The Book of Acts is the sequel to the Gospel according to St. Luke and comes to us from the same hand. St. Luke recorded for us the life of Christ and also recorded His Ascension into heaven. No part of the history can be severed from the rest. The Evangelist regards the Ascension (1) as the completion of Christ’s life. The Ascension was the final act which closed Christ’s mission on earth. That mission was not ended until He had finished His ministry, chosen and instructed His Apostles, illumined their hearts with faith in His resurrection and their minds with knowledge of the things pertaining to the Kingdom of God. This done, His work was ended, and He returned to the Father. (2) As the beginning of the life of the Church His last commands related to the endowment of the Spirit. His Apostles were not to separate as if their mission was ended, but to wait, and wait together, for the promised baptism of the Holy Spirit. The time of instruction was past, and all that was necessary to learn had been taught; now was the time of work and witness in ever-widening circle of influence.

B. The Evidence of the Apostles. We are left in no doubt or uncertainty in the great matter. Christ did not steal away from His apostles, leaving them to gather the conviction that He was gone, but He departed in their very sight. His departure was not involved in mystery, and those who saw it tell us the time, place, and manner with undoubting accuracy.

C. The Evidence of the Angels. As we have the evidence of those whom our Lord left behind Him, so we have the evidence of those to whom He came. “Those blessed spirits did know that Christ had ascended to heaven; and be-cause the eyes of the Apostles could not follow Him so far, they came to testify of His reception.” The assurance of the two angels is that of Christ Himself, for He sent them. His also is the assurance that the present state of loneliness, in-completeness, and expectation shall not last forever. He will return, “this same Jesus,” and in the same manner as He departed, visibly, in human form, and in divine glory.


In the Holy Gospel the Ascension is considered:

A. As the Completion of the Past. Our Lord did not ascend until He had gathered up the threads of His earthly ministry. He confirmed the doubting faith of the Apostles by clear evidence of His resurrection. He gave them their final commission, as more fully recorded in St. Matthew’s account, to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation. He instituted the Sacrament of Holy Baptism as the pledge of salvation and gave solemn warning of the danger of unbelief: “He who disbelieves will be condemned.” He gave them His last promise of supernatural assistance and of miraculous power to be exercised in His name, as evidence to His disciples of the reality of their mission.

B. As the Inauguration of the Future. Not until the Lord had completed His work was He received up with triumph into heaven and exalted to the right hand of God. The departure of the Master was the signal for the activity of His followers. They went forth and preached everywhere, strong in the power of their ascended Lord and the attestation afforded by miracles.


Shall we imitate the early disciples and joyfully function as organs of Christ’s mystical body by making disciples of all nations in the face of the fact that here on earth the Church will always be humble, hated, persecuted as was her Lord? Can we remain faithful and loyal to our Christ while walking through life the path He trod? This will require faith, believing without seeing.

So we come to the Lord today at His Table and have communion with Him. Here He assures us that He died for us. His body was given for us, His blood was shed for us. If He died for us, He rose for us, He ascended for us. He has gone to prepare a place for us in the heavenly mansions. We, too, shall have our ascension. A Man, our Brother, has entered the realms of glory and blazed the trail for us to follow. Yes, He will come again to take us home to the Father’s house.

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