Ascension Day, May 5, commemorating Christ’s taking His place in the Godhead at the right hand of God the Father, is an important holiday. Because of His Ascension, Christ fills all things. Thus, He can be present in the Lord’s Supper; thus, He is present with His church; thus, He rules over all things. After the jump, read what St. Paul says about the Ascension and read two more striking essays on the holiday, including what Douglas Farrow says about the political implications (so to speak) of Christ’s ascension. [Read more…]
Today is Ascension Day, a major festival of the church year–on a par with Christmas and Easter–but it doesn’t get much attention these days. Prof. Joel Biermann of Concordia Seminary gives us “seven reasons to rejoice on Ascension Day.”
Yesterday was Ascension Sunday. (The actual Ascension Day, 40 days after Easter, the time the risen Christ remained on earth, was last Thursday.) It commemorates something important and profound: the now-and-still Incarnate Son of God, His work of redemption complete, returning to His Father and assuming His eternal place in the Holy Trinity.
Some people think Ascension Day means that Jesus isn’t here anymore. (I have heard that put forward as a way to deny His presence in Holy Communion!) But what it really means is that now He can be present in all times and places (particularly Holy Communion!) because the Ascended Christ fills all things (Ephesians 1:20-23).
Christ’s Ascension has to do with His Incarnation, which, according to the Athanasian Creed, was “not by conversion of the divinity into flesh, but by “the assumption of the humanity into God.” Think of that! Our human nature, taken on by Christ, has been taken “into God.” This is why, in connection to Holy Communion, Christ’s body and blood, elements of his and our physical human nature, can be distributed to us human beings in our own times and places. What are some other implications of “the assumption of the humanity into God”?
Yesterday was Ascension Day, marking the resurrected Christ’s return to His Father. Pastor Reeder quotes the classic Bible scholar Paul E. Kretzmann on what the Ascension means:
“By His exaltation and ascension the Son of Man, also according to His human body, has entered into the full and unlimited use of His divine omnipresence. His gracious presence is therefore assured to His congregation on earth. He is now nearer to His believers than He was to His disciples in the days of His flesh.
He is now sitting at the right hand of His heavenly Father. As our Brother He has assumed the full use of the divine power and majesty. He reigns with omnipotence over all things, but especially also over His Church. God has put all things under His feet, and has given Him to be the Head over all things to the Church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all, Eph. 1, 22. 23.
By His Word and Sacrament He gathers unto Himself a congregation and Church upon earth. He works in and with His servants; He governs in the midst of His enemies. He preserves and protects His Church against all the enmity of the hostile world and against the very portals of hell. And His intercession before His heavenly Father makes our salvation a certainty, Rom. 8, 34.”
Strangely, the Reformed use the Ascension as an argument against the presence of Christ in the sacrament. (“Jesus isn’t here any more. He’s in Heaven.”) But Lutherans use the Ascension as an argument for the Real Presence, since now the Son of God, having taken His place in the Godhead, is omnipresent.
That was yesterday. Sorry I missed it. Ascension Day marks an important event, but it is odd the way Protestants interpret it in two opposite ways. For the Reformed, that Christ ascended into Heaven means that this is where His body is, so it can’t be on the altars of churches celebrating Holy Communion. But Lutherans say that the taking up of the man Jesus into the Godhead makes the doctrine of the Real Presence possible, since now this flesh and blood human being shares the attributes of the Trinity, including omnipresence.