Daily Meditations

Sixth Friday after Pascha, Ascension and Glorification

The Ascension and the Glorification of Man (Part II), by Father Lawrence Farley

The Church has always proclaimed that Man’s ultimate glory and destiny find fulfillment in Jesus. He is the Son of Man to whom God subjects all things, putting them under His feet. He is the One whom God crowned with glory and honour (see Heb. 2:6-9), the true and representative Man ruling over all creation. And the moment of this crowning, this final and supreme exaltation, was the Ascension.

That is the true meaning of the Ascension, and why the Ascension represents the triumph of man. In Jesus, Man assumes the throne God prepared for him, reigning finally and truly as king over the rest of creation. In the ascended Christ, sitting at God’s right hand to rule the cosmos with Him, Mankind finds its true destiny and glory and goal.

The Ascension however also reveals that this true glory comes from submitting to God’s will. Humanism rightly sees that man is a glorious being, but it errs in supposing that man can be glorious while rebelling against God. Secular humanism (there have been many varieties of humanism throughout the years) even declares that man’s glory consists in rebelling against God. All this is futile. Man finds his true dignity while kneeling before God; his true calling in gratefully adoring Him.

Psalm 8 reveals this, as does the example of Jesus. In Psalm 8, we see that it was God who “made man a little lower than elohim” (v. 5); it was God who made him rule over the works of His hands, and put all things under his feet” (v.6). Man did not attain to such heights by his own effort, by a kind of “triumph of the will” (to quote an old and horrifying documentary). Man does not glorify himself by pulling himself up by his Pelagian bootstraps (it was Pelagius who seemed to downplay our need for God). It is God who glorifies him, as His gift, as man submits in love to His will.

The life of Jesus reveals this also. Christ the Man always did the will of His Father, even though it cost Him His sweat and blood in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the Cross. In obedience “He offered up both prayers and supplications to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His piety” (Heb. 5:7). It was because of this obedience and humility before the divine will, this saving self-emptying, that “God highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the Name which is above every name” (Phil. 2:8-9). First came the Cross, and only then, the Crown; first the kneeling tears in the Garden, and only after that, the sitting at the Right Hand. Christ’s glory was the fruit of His humility, and of His obedience to the Father’s will. He proved Himself true Man when He knelt and prayed; He proved Himself true Man when He turned from His own will to the Father’s. And because of this human obedience, God exalted Him, raising Him from the dead and bringing Him to His right hand in glory.

Christ’s ascended glory therefore points the way home for us as well. The glory that Christ was given by the throne of His Father is the same glory that He will share with us (see Rev. 3:21). But we must follow in the footsteps of His humility if we would arrive finally at His glorious goal. The Ascension calls us to be authentically human, to fulfill our destiny by serving and loving God. The Man Christ Jesus has not only revealed the glory of the Father. He also revealed the true glory of humanity as well.

~Taken from the Website of the Orthodox Church in America, http://oca.org/reflections/fr.-lawrence-farley/the-ascension-and-the-glorification-of-man.