A sermon by Saint John of Kronstadt
The Lord, therefore, according to His speaking to them, ascended into heaven, and sat at the right hand of God. (Mark 16:19)
The Holy Church now exhorts all earthly people to joy and says: All nations, clap your hands, for Christ is ascended to where he was before, to the heavens.
And so on the feast of the Ascension of the Lord, all Christians should rejoice. Why rejoice? It would seem that it was rather necessary to grieve and mourn, because our sweetest Savior Jesus Christ has left us, and in His visible presence ascended to heaven, from which He will come again, but will come as a formidable Judge of all earthly people. No, on the day of the remembrance of the Ascension of the Lord, there are more reasons for joy than for sorrow. Let us consider only why the Lord ascended from us into heaven.
The Lord ascended from us into heaven, not in order to grieve us with His departure, but to arrange something useful for us. All His life, all His deeds were for our benefit, for our salvation; likewise, His ascension was for our good. In His love for us, He descended to us from heaven and, having lived with mankind, laid down His soul on the cross for them. Loving us so much, He ascended to heaven, giving us blessings. So He Himself said to His disciples: “It is better for you that I go, for if I do not go, then the Comforter will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7). And so, the Lord ascended to heaven in order to send in His place an equal to Himself – the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, Who would comfort the holy apostles and all true Christians in their sorrows, troubles and persecutions. Here is the first reason for joy. Come, come, Lord Jesus, and send us the Comforter!
Further, the Lord ascended from us to heaven, so that He could look on us from on high, as to the Father to the children, as to the shepherd to the sheep, as the eagle to the chicks, as the leader to his army, in order to see everyone and consider each of us needs and needs. and everyone to help. As a king, having gathered his troops for war and desiring to see all his regiments, ascends for this to a high place, to a mountain or to some building, and from a height looks and arranges them, and when he sees that they are victorious, rejoices over them; and if he sees that they are being overcome, he sends them an ambulance: so our Lord, King of kings, having His Church militant on earth, i.e. His faithful Christians, ascended to heaven, as if to a mountain, in order to see the feat of everyone from above and weave crowns for those who struggle, and give a helping hand to those who are exhausted – in order to restore the fallen and make them stronger against enemies, and put an obstacle against those who persecute us. The Holy Protomartyr Stephen was being stoned by the Jews, and our Lord, having opened heaven, looked at him from the height of His glory, so that he who suffered, seeing this, exclaimed: “I see the heavens open, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:56).
The Lord ascended from us into the heavens and in order to shine like the sun on all of us with His grace from heavenly heights. Just as the sun, hiding in the west, produces the darkness of night throughout the whole heavenly place, and when it ascends and rises to the heights, then the darkness flees from all the heavenly places, and the rays of the sun illuminate the universe with wondrous light: so our to our thoughts Christ is the sun, as long as he lives on earth, as if in the West. He did not show His radiant Divinity. To the people, there was darkness throughout the earth of ignorance of God; until when, shining from His tomb, He ascended into heaven. Then the lightning of His Divinity illumined the world, and His name became glorious from the rising of the sun to the west, throughout the whole earth, the whole universe was enlightened with the knowledge of God.
The Lord ascended from us into heaven in order to arrange for us the way to heaven, and to be our Leader to the mountainous countries. There was no way for man to heaven until the very ascension of the Lord to heaven; “No one has ascended into heaven, but he who has come down from heaven, says the Lord” (John 3:13). “The one who descended is the one who ascended above all heavens” (Eph. 4:10). So before, no one could ascend to heaven, even if he was righteous and holy; and when our Lord, having put on human nature, ascended into heaven, then a path to heaven was opened for the whole human race, and the souls of the holy ones followed Christ along that path – forefathers and prophets were brought out of hades; apostles, saints, martyrs, confessors ascended to the heavens. Worthy people ascend there now – righteous people who follow Christ’s footsteps; now everyone knows the way to heaven. Just do not be lazy to ascend them, Christians!
Thus the Lord ascended from us into heaven — in order to open the doors of heaven for us — for an unobstructed entry there. Our forefather Adam closed the heavenly door to the whole human race, and at the heavenly doors stood Cherubim with a fiery weapon; I say, Adam closed Paradise and the entrance to life, but he opened only entrances to death and hell, but the Lord did the opposite: he closed the entrances to death and hell, and opened paradise – and first of all to the thief, to whom he said, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43), then to everyone; and at last He opened heaven itself by His ascension.
What all-joyful reasons there are for the Lord’s ascension from us to heaven! Further, the Lord ascended from us into heaven to intercede for us before God the Father. So says St. Apostle John the Theologian: “And if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and He is the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 2:1-2). And so, we, sinful people, will not despair of our salvation, but we will be trustworthy: we have a good Intercessor for us to God the Father – Christ Himself our Savior, Who intercedes for us. But let us not be lazy ourselves, rather, at the intercession of Christ, send your warm prayers to the Heavenly Father. Yes, the Lord Jesus Christ intercedes for us to God the Father and propitiates Him. But who is he asking for? For sinners. What sinners? For those who repent, and for them He propitiates His Father; but He does not propitiate for unrepentant sinners, because for the second time they crucify the Son of God in themselves with their grave sins, with their inertness in impenitence, and they trample underfoot the blood of the Son of God with their unrepentance. And so be afraid, unrepentant sinner, so that the sudden punishment of God will not come upon you and you may not be consumed from the land of the living, and not be condemned along with the murderers who crucified the Son of God.
Finally, the Lord ascended from us into heaven in order to prepare in heaven for us a place where we will live forever and reign with Him, our Lord. Thus He Himself says: I am going to prepare a place for you; “And if I go and prepare a place for you, then I will come and take you to Myself: yea, where I am, you will be” (John 14:2.3). What a joyful reason for the ascension! The Lord ascended into heaven to prepare a place in heaven for every righteous and godly person, as well as for us sinners, if we turn and repent wholeheartedly. Where is the place for the Apostle Peter, who denied the Lord, and wept bitterly about that afterwards? Where is the harlot who wept at His feet, where is the prodigal son, where is the publican, where is the thief – there too will be a place for us; only let us weep bitterly for our sins, like Peter. Repent and be saved.
Let us all rejoice in the ascension of our Lord Savior!