Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Metropolitan Philaret on the Ascension

Here follow my translation of two sermon for the Feast of the Ascension by His Eminence, Metropolitan Philaret of Eastern America and New York:
How often we hear from faithful people how sad it is to part with Pascha. Many say that it is sad because the Lord was with us during these bright Paschal days, but now He will leave us. Yes, of course, the triumphant days of Pascha have gone silent and ended. But it must be remembered that one of the hymns which was repeated particularly often in the bright Paschal days was: “Let us who have beheld the Resurrection of Christ worship our holy Lord Jesus” – and we have just heard this, at this Vigil, at another feast, the feast of the Lord’s Ascension. This hymn demonstrates the very close relationship between two triumphs: the triumph of Pascha and the triumph of the Lord’s Ascension.

One and the same Lord Jesus Christ, Whom we praise in the Paschal night, ascends to heaven in glory, for which reason our spiritual joy must follow Him there, and not at all become sorrowful. It seems that we could grieve, as the Apostles did. But we in our hymns, which are sung during the Vigil, heard that the Lord “filled with unutterable joy in His Ascension” His disciples and His Divine Mother. Remember, that the Lord’s Ascension and enthronement at the right hand of God the Father, completed the immediate deed laid upon Him, which He completed “for us men and our salvation.”

At the dawn of human history, man dreamed of becoming equal to God, but did not at all become equal to Him and did not become God, and from being pure, innocent, and holy became an indecent sinner, “seals of anger,” as the Scriptures say. But the Lord did not abandon His creation. Man wanted to become God, but he did not become Him, but God became man, not ceasing to be God, and revealed Himself on earth as the God-Man. He took upon Himself our human nature to the extent that not in all boundless eternity there will not be another Son of God apart from the God-Man, our Lord Jesus Christ, Who desired in His boundless Divine Essence to take upon Himself our human essence, our human nature. God descended from heaven to earth, as God, and ascended into the heaven as the God-Man, that is, our human nature He not only redeemed, cleansed from sin, and sanctified, but enthroned it at the right hand of God the Father. Now, higher that all creation, higher than angels, archangels, cherubim, and seraphim is enthroned on the Divine Throne God and at the same time Man, in everything like us.

Only the wisdom of God, the infinite love of God, the grace of God, the wisdom and power could accomplish this difficult deed. Therefore remember that when we glorify the Lord Savior, ascended and sitting at the right hand of God, that we are glorifying in Him our human nature. But this is very little, He is not only with us. In the Apocalypse we read that the Lord said: “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in His throne” (Rev. 3:21). Even to dream of this is fearful, but these are the words of the Savior, Who never spoke an untruth, never spoke an exaggeration – if He said it, it means that it will be exactly like this – it cannot be otherwise.

Therefore, we rejoice not only that he ascended to the right hand of His beloved Father, but rejoice the our human nature has not only be cleansed and sanctified, but has ascended to the heights of heaven. Therefore, the feast of the Lord’s Ascension should not be a day of sorrow, but one of eternal rejoicing in spiritual triumph. Amen.

II. The Lord came to Earth as the Son of God, and Ascended into Heaven as the God-Man.

Those who are in God’s church on the Vigil on the eve of the Exaltation of the Life-Giving Cross see a deeply meaningful rite in cathedrals where a bishop is serving. There, the cross is gradually lowered from a great height down to the very floor, and then is once again raised on high, to where it had been lowered.

This sacred rite illustrates today’s feast day: the Son of God came down from the Throne of His Glory to us, on the sinful earth in order to save perishing mankind, and did not stay on earth, but descended to the abyss of hell and from there freed the souls that were languishing there. And the Church insistently tells us in today’s bright and festive day that Christ the Savior came down from heaven as the Son of God, in His Divinity, and ascended as the God-Man.

The Savior took our fallen, sinful nature there with Him and enthroned it on the Glorious Throne of the Glory of His Kingdom, on the right hand of, right next to, God the Father, higher even than the Immaculate Virgin Mary. See what the Lord has done for our salvation! That is why the Apostles left the Mount of Olives after the Lord’s Ascension not with sorrow, but “with great rejoicing,” as the Church says.

They understood the meaning of this Podvig of Christ, that the Son of God came on earth to save mankind, and not only save Him, but enthrone Him on the Throne of His Kingdom.

The Lord, as we know from the Gospel, said: “and where I am, there shall also my servant be" (Jn 13:26) – where I am, My servant will be. Take care, soul of man, to faithfully serve the Lord God. Then in His eternal Kingdom you will be near Him, as He promised, and He never lies or tells untruths. If follows that it was and will be as He said. Amen.

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