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 Post subject: Ascension Day -- readings and patristic commentary
PostPosted: Thu May 05, 2005 12:07 am 
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Location: Diocese of Peoria, Illinois
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Acts 1:1-11

In the first book, O Theophilus, I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught until the day He was taken up, after He had given instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom He had chosen. He also presented Himself alive to them by many infallible proofs after His passion, being seen by them for forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the Kingdom of God. While meeting with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for "the promise of the Father about which you have heard Me speak. For John indeed baptised with water, but in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit." Since they had gathered together, they asked Him, "Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" He answered them, "It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and to the furthest ends of the earth." When He had spoken these things, as they were looking on, He was lifted up, and a cloud took Him from their sight. While they were looking intently toward heaven as He ascended, lo, two men dressed in white garments stood beside them, and they also said, "Men of Galilee, why are you standing there gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven shall return in the same way as you have seen Him going into heaven."


Psalm 47:2-3, 6-9

O clap your hands, all you peoples. Shout to God with the voice of triumph, for the LORD, the Most High, is awesome, is a great King over all the earth. . . . God has ascended amid shouts of joy; the LORD, amid trumpet blasts. Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises. For God is the King of all the earth; sing hymns with understanding. God reigns over the nations, God sits upon the throne of His holiness.


Eph. 1:17-23

. . . so that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in the knowledge of Him; with the eyes of your understanding being enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope that belongs to His call, what are the riches of the glory in His inheritance among the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power for us who believe, in accord with the exercise of His great might: which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and set Him at His own right hand in the heavens, far above every Principality, Power, Might, and Dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world but also in the one that is to come. And He has put all things under His feet, and gave Him as Head over all things to the Church, which is His Body, the fullness of Him who fills all things in every way.

or

Heb. 9:24-28; 10:19-23

For Christ did not enter into the sanctuary made by hands, the copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, that He might now appear before God on our behalf. Not that He might offer Himself repeatedly, as the High Priest enters each year into the sanctuary with blood that is not his own; if that were so, He would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But now once for all He has appeared at the end of the ages to take away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. Just as it is appointed for human beings to die once, and after that the Judgment, so also Christ was offered once to bear away the sins of many, and will appear a second time, not to take away sin but to bring salvation to those who eagerly await Him. . . . Therefore, brethren, since through the blood of Jesus we have confidence to enter into the Holy of Holies by the new and living way He opened for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have "a High Priest over the House of God," let us draw near with a sincere heart and in absolute trust, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water. Let us hold unwaveringly to our profession of faith, for He who made the promise is trustworthy.


Matt. 28:16-20

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to a mountain to which Jesus had ordered them. When they saw Him, they worshipped Him, but some doubted. Then Jesus approached and said to them, "All power in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go, therefore, and teach all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And lo, I am with you always, until the end of the age." Amen.


Bede, Hom. Aest. in Fer., vi., Pasch.: The Lord appeared to them in the mountain to signify, that His Body which at His Birth He had taken of the common dust of the human race, He had by His Resurrection exalted above all earthly things; and to teach the faithful that if they desire there to see the height of His Resurrection, they must endeavour here to pass from low pleasures to high desires.

And He goes before His disciples into Galilee, because “Christ is risen from the dead, the first fruits of them that slept.” [1 Cor 15:20] And they that are Christ’s follow Him, and pass in their order from death to life, contemplating Him as He appears with His proper Divinity. And it agrees with this that Galilee is interpreted ‘revelation.’

Bede, Beda in Hom. non occ.: He who before His Passion had said, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles,” [Matt 10:5] now, when rising from the dead, says, “Go and teach, all nations.”

Hereby let the Jews be put to silence, who say that Christ’s coming is to be for their salvation only. Let the Donatists also blush, who, desiring to confine Christ to one place, have said that He is in Africa only, and not in other countries.

Jerome: They first then teach all nations, and when taught dip them in water. For it may not be that the body receive the sacrament of Baptism, unless the soul first receive the truth of the Faith. “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost,” that they whose Godhead is one should be conferred at once, to name this Trinity, being to name One God.

Chrysologus, Serm. 80: Thus all nations are created a second time to salvation by that one and the same Power, which created them to being.

Jerome, Didymi Lib. ii, de Spir. Sanct.: And though some one there may be of so averse a spirit as to undertake to baptize in such sort as to omit one of these names, therein contradicting Christ Who ordained this for a law, his baptism will effect nothing; those who are baptized by him will not be at all delivered from their sins. From these words we gather how undivided is the substance of the Trinity, that the Father is verily the Father of the Son, and the Son verily the Son of the Father, and the Holy Spirit the Spirit of both the Father and the Son, and also the Spirit of wisdom and of truth, that is, of the Son of God. This then is the salvation of them that believe, and in this Trinity is wrought the perfect communication of ecclesiastical discipline.

Hilary, de Trin. ii, 1 &c: For what part of the salvation of men is there that is not contained in this Sacrament? All things are full and perfect, as proceeding from Him who is full and perfect. The nature of His relation is expressed in the title Father; but He is nothing but Father; for not after the manner of men does He derive from somewhat else that He is Father, being Himself Unbegotten, Eternal, and having the source of His being in Himself, known to none, save the Son.

The Son is the Offspring of the Unbegotten, One of the One, True of the True, Living of the Living, Perfect of the Perfect, Strength of Strength, Wisdom of Wisdom, Glory of Glory; the Image of the Unseen God, the Form of the Unbegotten Father.

Neither can the Holy Spirit be separated from the confession of the Father and the Son. And this consolation of our longing desires is absent from no place. He is the pledge of our hope in the effects of His gifts, He is the light of our minds, He shines in our souls.

These things as the heretics cannot change, they introduce into them their human explanations. As Sabellius who identifies the Father with the Son, thinking the distinction to be made rather in name than in person, and setting forth one and the same Person as both Father and Son. As Ebion, who deriving the beginning of His existence from Mary, makes Him not Man of God, but God of man. As the Arians, who derive the form, the power, and the wisdom of God out of nothing, and in time. What wonder then that men should have diverse opinions about the Holy Spirit, who thus rashly after their own pleasure create and change the Son, by whom that Spirit is bestowed?

Jerome: Observe the order of these injunctions. He bids the Apostles first to teach all nations, then to wash them with the sacrament of faith, and after faith and baptism then to teach them what things they ought to observe; “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.”

Rabanus: “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” [James 2:26]

Rabanus: Hence we understand that to the end of the world shall not be wanting those who shall be worthy of the Divine indwelling.

Chrysostom: He brings before them the end of the world, that He may the more draw them on, and that they may not look merely to present inconveniences, but to the infinite goods to come. As much as to say, The grievous things which you shall undergo, terminate with this present life, seeing that even this world shall come to an end, but the good things which ye shall enjoy endure for ever.

Bede, Beda in Hom., non occ.: It is made a question how He says here, “I am with you,” when we read elsewhere that He said, “I go unto him that sent me.” [John 16:5]

What is said of His human nature is distinct from what is said of His divine nature. He is going to His Father in His human nature, He abides With His disciples in that form in which He is equal with the Father. When He says, “to the end of the world,” He expresses the infinite by the finite; for He who remains in this present world with His elect, protecting them, the same will continue with them after the end, rewarding them.

Pope Leo the Great: Serm., 72, 3: For by ascending into heaven He does not desert His adopted; but from above strengthens to endurance, those whom He invites upwards to glory. Of which glory may Christ make us partakers, Who is the King of glory, “God blessed for ever,” AMEN.

*********

In dioceses where the celebration of Ascension has recently been transferred to the 7th. Sunday of Pascha, the following readings are used on this Thursday:


Acts 18:1-8

After these things, Paul left Athens and came to Corinth. There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome. He went to visit them and, because he practiced the same trade, stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade. Every Sabbath, he entered into discussions in the synagogue, attempting to convince both Jews and Greeks. When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul began to occupy himself totally with preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ. When they opposed him and blasphemed, he shook out his garments and said to them, "Your blood be upon your own heads -- I am clear of responsibility! From now on I will go to the Gentiles." So he left there and went to a house belonging to a man named Titus Justus, a worshipper of God. His house was next to the synagogue. Crispus, the chief synagogue official, came to believe in the Lord with his entire household, and many of the Corinthians who heard believed and were baptized.


Psalm 98:1-4

O sing to the LORD a new song, for He has done marvelous things. His right hand and His holy arm have won Him the victory. The LORD has made His salvation known. His righteousness He has revealed in the sight of the nations. He has remembered His mercy and His truth toward the House of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth. Make a loud noise and rejoice, and sing praise.


John 16:16-20

"A little while and you shall not see Me, and again a little while and you shall see Me, because I am going to the Father." So some of His disciples said to one another, "What does this mean that He is saying to us, 'A little while and you shall not see Me, and again a little while and you shall see Me,' and 'because I am going to the Father'?" So they said, "What is this 'little while' of which He speaks? We do not understand what He is saying." Now Jesus knew that they wanted to ask Him, so He said to them, "Are you discussing with one another what I said, 'A little while and you shall not see Me, and again a little while and you shall see Me'? Amen, Amen, I say to you that you shall weep and mourn, but the world shall rejoice; and you shall grieve, but your grief shall be turned into joy."

_________________
I praise Thee for all things, I bless Thee, I glorify Thee, with the everlasting and heavenly Jesus Christ, Thy beloved Son, with whom, to Thee, and the Holy Spirit, be glory both now and to all coming ages. Amen. -- St. Polycarp's prayer of thanksgiving at his martyrdom, 156 A.D.

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