Thank you for joining me as we Lectio the Liturgy with the Collect for the Ascension of the Lord. Would you like to guess how old this week’s Collect is? This opening prayer for the Ascension dates back to the year 444. It comes from Sermon 73, written by St. Leo the Great. (Please note that there are two options of Collects for the Ascension. This is the first one.)
Gladden us with holy joys, almighty God, and make us rejoice with devout thanksgiving, for the Ascension of Christ your Son is our exaltation, and, where the Head has gone before in glory, the Body is called to follow in hope. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever.
The Ascension has always been intriguing to me. Have you ever really sat down and thought about it? What if Jesus would have stayed on earth? Were the Apostles sad to see him go, “Jesus, stay with us! You should write a book!”? What does the Ascension have to do with my faith?
St. Leo the Great, in Sermon 73, wrote that God used the time between the Resurrection and Ascension to teach his people that Jesus was truly risen, just as he was truly born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilot, was crucified, died and was buried.
The Apostles and disciples, who were bewildered at his death, were strengthened by these truths that Jesus was truly the Messiah, he was God. In fact, they were so strengthened that when the Lord entered heaven, they were not filled with sadness, but were filled with joy.
Why? Because on that day, they saw the Nature of mankind pass above angels and archangels. The Jesus they knew, was truly the Son of God, and because of his Nature, his place was to sit at the Father’s throne.
What does this have to do with us? Christ’s Ascension is our exultation, or our advancement. Where Jesus, the Head of the Church has gone, the Body, the Church, will follow. Through God’s grace, we have gained greater things than we’ve lost through the devil’s malice. We now possess paradise and in Christ we have penetrated the highest of heaven! Paul writes in Ephesians 2:6, “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” When God raised Jesus, he raised us because we are in Christ. We should be bringing Heaven to earth, not just praying for heaven to come down.
The other thing I noticed about this prayer, is the verbs. We don’t ask God to help us be glad or give us something that helps us rejoice. We give God permission to gladden our hearts and to make us rejoice.
Lectio the Liturgy: Has celebrating the Ascension of the Lord ever filled you with joy? If you’ve felt only some joy, or no joy, how can you make this year different? Spend some time in your imagination with the Apostles on the day they saw Jesus rising on the cloud, knowing that as Jesus ascended into heaven, not only their lives but their ministry have a higher calling. What new heights does God have for you?
I want to close with these words from St. Leo the Great’s sermon, “Since then Christ's Ascension is our uplifting, and the hope of the Body is raised, whither the glory of the Head has gone before, let us exult, dearly-beloved, with worthy joy and delight in the loyal paying of thanks.”
I hope you have a blessed week,