{    Cnytr   }

{Tuesday, May 26, 2009  }

.:{Assention to the Ascension}:.

from a 13th century Syriac bible; Al-Za'faran Monastery(?), Turkey(?)

Within one week, I will have celebrated the Ascension not once (the Gregorian calendar: Thursday), not twice (the made-up mobility of the feast: Sunday), but three times (the Julian calendar: Thursday).

And it's a good thing, too. I believe I finally "get" the feast of the Ascension. Oh there are a number of reasons, I understand intellectually, for the Ascension. Why exactly the fanfare, however? What does it all mean, aside from the obvious? (i.e. Christ sits at the right hand of the Father until he comes in glory, if he did not go he could not send the Holy Spirit, etc...)

Now you can tell me the same things again and again, but until I hear it in a Language I Understand (which usually involves capital letters of Significant Words), the puzzle pieces don't exactly click into place. I understand but I don't get it.

It was until Sunday, when I was messing around with Relevant Radio on my computer in a vain attempt to find where and when Fr. Thomas Loya's Light of the East would come on, that I heard another priest speaking of the Ascension. Same old same old until I heard,

...[the Ascension] is the parallel feast to the Nativity.

Suddenly the Truth Bombs went off in my head and I Understood.

In Eastern Catholicism, the concept of theosis is emphasized -- that is, becoming more and more clearly the image of God, to be divinized (but not to become God in his essence -- obviously that's impossible and heterodox), to be partakers in divine nature. Athanasius is often quoted:

As, then, if a man should wish to see God, Who is invisible by nature and not seen at all, he may know and apprehend Him from His works: so let him who fails to see Christ with his understanding, at least apprehend Him by the works of His body, and test whether they be human works or God's works. And if they be human, let him scoff; but if they are not human, but of God, let him recognise it, and not laugh at what is no matter for scoffing; but rather let him marvel that by so ordinary a means things divine have been manifested to us, and that by death immortality has reached to all, and that by the Word becoming man, the universal Providence has been known, and its Giver and Artificer the very Word of God. For He was made man that we might be made God; and He manifested Himself by a body that we might receive the idea of the unseen Father; and He endured the insolence of men that we might inherit immortality. For while He Himself was in no way injured, being impossible and incorruptible and very Word and God, men who were suffering, and for whose sakes He endured all this, He maintained and preserved in His own impassibility.
(54 De Incarnatione)

God becomes man so that man might become God. That's just how it all works. Clearly to pay Adam's debt, as Athanasius explains earlier in that same work, it must be paid in an infinite manner -- but no one is infinite but God. At the same time, only man could pay it, since he was the offender. Thus, God becomes man for the purposes of paying Adam's debt, opening to us the closed gates of paradise and saving mankind.

But how does the Ascension fit in there, exactly? How does that include man becoming God?

Now we turn to Gregory Nazianzen:

If any assert that He has now put off His holy flesh, and that His Godhead is stripped of the body, and deny that He is now with His body and will come again with it, let him not see the glory of His Coming. For where is His body now, if not with Him Who assumed it? For it is not laid by in the sun, according to the babble of the Manichæans, that it should be honoured by a dishonour; nor was it poured forth into the air and dissolved, as is the nature of a voice or the flow of an odour, or the course of a lightning flash that never stands. Where in that case were His being handled after theResurrection, or His being seen hereafter by them that pierced Him, for Godhead is in its nature invisible. Nay; He will come with His body— so I have learned— such as He was seen by His Disciples in the Mount, or as he showed Himself for a moment, when his Godhead overpowered the carnality. And as we say this to disarm suspicion, so we write the other to correct the novel teaching. If anyone assert that His flesh came down from heaven, and is not from hence, nor of us though above us, let him be anathema. [...] For that which He has not assumed He has not healed.
(To Cledonius the Priest Against Apollinarius. (Ep. CI.))

I've even heard that last quote as that which He has not assumed, He has not redeemed.

And so it clicks. God comes down from heaven in the Incarnation, becoming man to pay Adam's debt for which he must suffer, die and rise. To fully redeem us, his risen body ascends to the right hand of the Father in glory. In the first, Christ took on our humanity; in the latter, Christ took our humanity with him. There is that fish hook I posted about earlier. It is the fullness of our redemption.

To speak poorly in semi-Platonic/Universal terms (it's been a while, correct me if I'm wrong), any human individual is a particular instance of Humanity, a species yet belonging to/participating in the genus. By the instance of one man who is Christ who is God coming and dying and rising, it is not simply once instantiation of God-man or simply God or simply one man who Ascends, it is Man, it is Humanity, contained in Christ who is both fully God and fully Man. The Genus is itself redeemed.

And now it makes sense to me.

posted by Lauren, 12:04 PM


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