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Meditation for Ascension Day

“God is gone up with a merry noise”

There is something truly celebratory and delightful about Ascension Day. It signals a kind of participatory delight in the movements of God. The Ascension marks the culmination of the Resurrection in the homecoming of the Son to the Father having accomplished all that belongs to human redemption. His homecoming to the right hand of the Father celebrates our homecoming, the idea that we have a home, a place with God. “I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world an, and go to the Father,” Jesus says. The meaning of that coming and going is captured in the Ascension of Christ and belongs to the promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit sent by Jesus and sent by the Father in Jesus’ name. Such is the dynamic of spiritual life.

And there is the wonderful sense of a participatory pleasure and joy expressed by the Psalmist (Ps. 47.5). “God is gone up with a merry noise,/ the Lord with the sound of the trumpet.” It is such a strong affirmation of the divine life which is the ground of all life. Not God has gone up but God is gone up! There is no life apart from the essential life of God. And as we have seen, the Resurrection is cosmic in scope and never lets us forget the Passion in all of its witness to the follies of sin and evil. Ascension bids us rejoice in God, in the motions of the Son’s homecoming to the Father which signals our home with God, our life in the life which does not end.

Ascension reminds us of an important feature of Christian spirituality partly in its Anglican expression. Our liturgy, shaped by a number of different traditions but in this case by Calvin, is very much the liturgy of the Ascension, the liturgy of the sursum corda, the lifting up of all things in prayer to the God who has descended and ascended and has gathered all things back to him from whom all things do come. Prayer is about our hearts in ascension. As Augustine wonderfully puts it, we ascend in the ascension of our hearts, ascendimus ascensiones in cordis. But he adds “et cantamus canticum graduum,” we sing a song of ascent, of degrees, of steps up to the wonder of God, the God who ever is.

In prayer and praise we participate in the life of God. Ascension is the strong reminder of the radical nature of prayer. In prayer we participate in the return of all things to the Father through the Son in the Spirit.

This teaching is marvellously expressed in the very building of Christ Church. It embodies the whole motion of prayer, the motion of the ascension. In the lifting up of our hearts, all things are lifted up to God and by God. Such is prayer in its deepest sense.

“God is gone up with a merry noise”

Fr. David Curry
Meditation for Ascension Day, 2022