Epistle on the Ascension of the Lord by His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
Eminent brother Archpastors, beloved-in-the-Lord Reverend Pastors, dear brothers, sisters and children!
Celebrating the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Church beckons all heaxr children, all those who were born on earth, to rejoice, singing “Clap your hands, all nations, for Christ has ascended to where He was before!” (sticheron on “Lord I call”). From the Church song it is clear that even the Holy Apostles rejoiced, for in the troparion, we sing:”You ascended in glory, O Christ our God, granting joy to Your Disciples…”
One sometimes hears from those who do not wish to part with the celebration of the Pascha of Christ words similar to this regarding this holiday: What is there to rejoice over? It would seem more fitting to grieve, since the Lord left His disciples and the world in His visible presence and ascended to the heavens and took His place at the right hand of God, and He will only return again for the terrible and just Judgment of the living and the dead.
But in fact there are many reasons to rejoice over the Ascension! The Apostles rejoiced because Christ said to them: “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” and He promised to send down His equal, the Holy Spirit, the Divine Consoler, saying: “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you” (John 16:7). Christ ascended physically, and thereby elevated human flesh and our nature to Heaven, to the Divine Altar, that is, He thereby brought us into His eternal glory. And now, when we gaze upon the Divine Throne, we see not a terrible punishing God, but a Loving, Merciful and Understanding God who possesses the experience of human existence and endured all the temptations you and I experience every day. We see at the Divine Throne both a Man shining in undying Light and Divine Glory, co-reigning and abiding in full unity with Him, and interceding for us, as John the Theologian witnessed: “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2).
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