We observed Ascension Day “by anticipation” yesterday evening. (Our liturgical day begins at sunset, and we sometimes stretch it a bit, as an evening liturgy is better attended weekdays than a liturgy at, say, 6:30 a.m.)
My former Church, the Christian Reformed, took Ascension Day seriously, as did others in the Reformed tradition. That was on paper, at least. On the ground, the three Reformed Churches of generally Dutch background would typically pool resources, as not one of them could get a credible showing on its own for an Ascension Day service. (I assume it was otherwise a century or so ago.) That puzzles me now, more than ever.
I have noticed for decades the tendency of people to say things like “I grew up in X Church, but I never heard the gospel until my lovely wife Boopsie, then my fiancé, invited me to Y Church.” I may blog on that notion some day, because I have heard it said of the Orthodox Church — of which Church I know such a claim is false. The reason I know it is false is what may be worth blogging.
But as for Ascension, I can say that I grew up evangelical, then spent 2 decades in the Christian Reformed Church, but never apprehended until I was Orthodox that our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ not only sits at the right hand of the Father, from where he intercedes for us, but that He sits there in glorified human flesh!
The incarnation was no mere temporary expedient, so that the Son could take on crucifixion and death for us and thus placate the anger of the great sky bully (His Father) and get us (who actually deserved and were destined for such treatment) off the hook. That view of the Atonement is troubling on many levels.
But perhaps the most decisive proof of its inadequacy is that 40 days after the Resurrection, Christ did not go to the mountain and there shed his body, rising wraithlike to the Father before his disciples’ eyes. No, He rose in the body, taking it with Him.
So the Atonement — frequently broken down into separate word, “at one -ment”— has to do with reconciling humanity, flesh and blood as well as spirit, with the Holy Trinity.
This was the original plan. This was the eventuality of God’s little chats and walks with Adam and Eve in the Garden. And this original plan is what our Blessed Second Adam has restored.
No wonder we have sacraments and relics as well as prayers and meditations. Salvation is for the whole person, and all persons. Reconciliation at all levels is so important that the Eternal Son, being fully God, humbled and emptied Himself and joined our race for eternity.
A Church that can’t spark interest in Ascension Day must be missing something huge about that.