The Ascension of Our Lord

From the Treasury of Daily Prayer:

Ascension Day is the coronation celebration of our Lord as He is proclaimed to be King of the universe. Jesus’ ascension to the Father is His entrance to the greater existence beyond the confines of time and space, being no longer bound by the limitations of His state of humiliation. Jesus now sits at the right hand of God, which Luther correctly taught is everywhere, having again taken up the power and authority that were His since before time. Yet our Lord is present with us who remain bound by time and space. He is with us as true God and true man, exercising His rulership in the Church through the means of grace which He established: His Word and His Sacraments. We mortals in those means of grace can grasp the King of the universe and receive a foretaste of the feast to come.

Hymn of the Day–“A Hymn of Glory Let Us Sing”

“A hymn of gory let us sing!
New hymns throughout the world shall ring:
Alleluia, alleluia!
Christ, by a road before untrod,
Ascends unto the throne of God.
Alleluia alleluia!
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

The holy apostolic band
Upon the Mount of Olives stand,
Alleluia, alleluia!
And with His faithful foll’wers see
Their Lord ascend in majesty.
Alleluia, alleluia!
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

To them the shining angels cry,
‘Why stand and gaze upon the sky?’
Alleluia, alleluia!
‘This is the Savior,’ thus they say;
‘This is His glorious triumph day!’
Alleluia, alleluia!
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

‘You see Him now, ascending high
Up to the portals of the sky.’
Alleluia, alleluia!
‘Hereafter Jesus you shall see
Returning in great majesty.’
Alleluia, alleluia!
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

Be now our joy on earth, O Lord,
And be our future great reward.
Alleluia, alleluia!
Then, throned with You forever, we
Shall praise Your name eternally.
Alleluia, alleluia!
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

O risen Christ, ascended Lord,
All praise to You let earth accord:
Alleluia, alleluia!
You are, while endless ages run,
With Father and with Spirit one.
Alleluia, alleluia!
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!”¬†Lutheran Service Book #493

Ascension Day

Tonight, after several years of trying, but for one reason or another, never actually getting there, we finally made it to the Ascension service at our church. I’m not sure I’ve ever actually been to church on Ascension Day proper, and I was very curious to see what the service was like. It was a festival service, as I expected, and we sang Ascension hymns, also as expected, but one thing did strike me as unexpected, (although, I guess in retrospect, I should have seen it coming)–the snuffing out of the Paschal candle during the Ascension reading.

That one moment put a bit of a somber spin on the otherwise celebratory festival service. And it really made me think. I found I was very disappointed to see that light extinguished. When that particular light is brought back at the Great Vigil of Easter, it is one of the high points of the church year for me. And the candle being lit every Sunday between Easter and Ascension serves as a reminder that we are in a season of celebration. But then, in the middle of our celebration, the candle is abruptly extinguished. And in that moment, I think I got a glimpse into what the disciples must have felt.

Here they were, rejoicing that their teacher, their friend, their Savior, had beaten death, and was back in their midst. They walked with Him and learned from Him in those forty days following His resurrection. And then, just as quickly as He had rejoined them, He was gone again. Yes, they knew where He was going, so the fear of death no longer hung over them, but He was still gone from their midst.

One of our hymns tonight mentioned the disciples’ “happy tears,” and yet, I have to wonder just how happy they were. I was sad enough just seeing the Paschal candle go out; if I had walked with Jesus for all that time, I think my tears would have been pretty heartbroken at His leaving.¬†It makes me wonder just what the disciples were thinking and feeling. It is certainly understandable that the angels would have had to snap them out of their thoughts as they stared up at heaven. But were they left feeling bereft at the Lord’s absence? Excited about the job ahead of them? Terrified of all they had witnessed in the last two months? Probably a mixture of those emotions, and others, I’m sure.