Sunday, May 12, 2013

Blessed Sunday after the Ascension

Yes, I know, I should have posted on Ascension Day. All my purist Catholic friends on Facebook have been posting quips about people who think Ascension is celebrated on the following Sunday. Ascension is on a Thursday. I get that. However, I'm just now getting around to a post, and the way I look at it is that giving Ascension a full octave is a way of honoring the feast and acknowledging its importance. This way there is not simply Ascension Day but also Ascensiontide.

Herewith a couple of great hymns. If you don't know 'em, look 'em up:

The Head that Once Was Crowned With Thorns

The head that once was crowned with thorns
Is crowned with glory now;
A royal diadem adorns
The mighty victor’s brow.

The highest place that Heav’n affords
Belongs to Him by right;
The King of kings and Lord of lords,
And Heaven’s eternal Light.

The joy of all who dwell above,
The joy of all below,
To whom He manifests His love,
And grants His Name to know.

To them the cross with all its shame,
With all its grace, is given;
Their name an everlasting name,
Their joy the joy of Heaven.

They suffer with their Lord below;
They reign with Him above;
Their profit and their joy to know
The mystery of His love.

The cross He bore is life and health,
Though shame and death to Him,
His people’s hope, His people’s wealth,
Their everlasting theme.

Great tune, too. Sing that one when you really need to cheer yourself up.

Now for some excellent Ascension theology:

See the Conqueror Mounts

See, the Conqu'ror mounts in triumph;
See the King in royal state,
Riding on the clouds, his chariot,
To his heav'nly palace gate:
Hark! the choirs of angel voices
Joyful Alleluias sing
And the portals high are lifted
To receive their heav'nly King.

He who on the cross did suffer,
He who from the grave arose,
He has vanquished sin and Satan;
He by death has spoiled his foes.
While he lifts his hands in blessing
He is parted from his friends;
While their eager eyes behold him,
He upon the clouds ascends.

Thou hast raised our human nature
In the clouds to God's right hand;
There we sit in heav'nly places,
There with thee in glory stand:
Jesus reigns, adored by angels,
Man with God is on the throne;
Mighty Lord, in thine ascension
We by faith behold our own.

And here I'm going to quote without shame from a past post of my own on the subject of the Ascension: One of the things I like about Ascension as an Anglican feast is that it's the kind of thing a person with a Baptist upbringing and sympathies can be enriched by without changing one whit of doctrine. It's just a set of ideas that simply never occurred to you before: Jesus took our human nature back to the Father's right hand. Jesus reigns with God, so God and man are on the throne together. We sit with Him in heavenly places. He intercedes for us with the Father. If you are familiar with Scripture, all of that comes back. But if you don't have a liturgical background, you usually didn't think of associating it with Jesus' ascension. But that's when that all started. And of course, as Jesus' words to the disciples just before ascending refer to the promise of "the Gift," the Holy Ghost, so the Feast of the Ascension looks forward to next week, Whitsunday, Pentecost.

I was also thinking this morning about the High Priestly prayer in John 17. If we wonder what Jesus says when He intercedes for us, perhaps that would be a place to start. It is the longest prayer of Jesus to His Father that we have recorded for us. I was much struck by his saying, "I pray not that you would take them out of the world but that you would keep them from the evil." And, "Sanctify them through thy truth." And then, "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word." Jesus is now praying for us all the time like this at the Father's right hand.

Lift up your heads, ye mighty gates, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of Glory shall  come in!

Blessed Ascension Sunday!

No comments: