The Ascension of Our Lord
On Christ’s ascension I now build
The hope of my ascension;
This hope alone has always stilled
All doubt and apprehension;
For where the head is, there as well
I know his members are to dwell
When Christ will come and call them.
Since Christ returned to claim his throne,
Great gifts for me obtaining,
My heart will rest in him alone,
No other rest remaining;
For where my treasure went before,
There all my thoughts will ever soar
To still their deepest yearning.
Oh, grant, dear Lord, this grace to me,
Recalling your ascension,
That I may serve you faithfully,
Adorning your redemption;
And then, when all my days will cease,
Let me depart in joy and peace
In answer to my pleading.
Here are some thoughts by Martin Chemnitz on what the Ascension of Our Lord means, and how we are to understand it. HT: Historic Lectionary/Sean Daenzer
From “The Two Natures in Christ.” Page numbers according to the 2007 CPH edition.
On the basis of Heb. 1:3 we speak of the right hand of the divine majesty, or the right hand of His power or strength (Luke 22:69), at which Christ is described as sitting here in time. Elsewhere in Scripture the right hand of God does not signify a member or part of God, nor merely a place of quiet and bliss, but it indicates the power and activity of God by which He drives back His enemies, is present with His own, hearkens to them with His grace, His blessing, His help, His liberation, His defense, His preservation, His salvation, as shown in His miracles and all His glorious divine works.
Christ according to His divine nature is the very right hand of God, for the Father does all His works of divine majesty and power through the Son. But the human nature of Christ clearly does not become the right hand of God here in time, for no commingling, conversion or equating of the natures takes place, but the unimpaired distinction of the natures remains even after the union, as we have previously shown.
However, the human nature lodges within Christ and sits at the right hand of God, because it has been personally united with the divine nature of the Logos, which is the very right hand of God. Now after He has laid aside His humiliation in the exaltation or glorification, it has been brought into the full and manifest use of the power of the right hand of God, so that now the right hand of the majesty and power which is in the person of the Logos shows itself and exercises, carries on, and accomplishes the activities of its divine power and majesty in, with, and through the assumed nature; and the assumed nature carries on the divine works of the right hand of God in the person of the Logos, with whom it has a communion like that of heated iron, which glows and gives heat by the power of the fire that is united with it, yet without commingling or equating.
Ch. 24 (p.322)
The expression “to sit” in this passage (Psalm 110:1; 1 Cor. 15:25) does not refer to the reclining position of the body or to the occupancy of a particular place, but to His power and to the glorious administration of His office of King, High Priest, and Messiah and to His dominion over all things. Scripture speaks in this way of Christ’s session at the right hand of God so that it may show clearly that also with respect to His human nature, according to which He was crucified, dead and raised again, Christ is placed at the right hand of the majesty and power of God.
The terms which are added in the description of this session, such as “in heaven,” “in the heavens,” “in the highest,” do not restrict the right hand of God to one place, nor do they imply that Christ according to His human nature is sitting at the right hand of God in only one place in heaven; but these expressions mean that the majesty and power are not created, earthly, or lowly, but rather that they are heavenly, lofty, and divine. For it is said of God Himself, who is limited to no one place: “Our God is in heaven, He does all things which He wishes.” (Psalm 115:3) etc. Ch. 24 (p.323)
See chapter 28 for a thorough catalogue of testimonies from the ancient fathers
Not the least part of the work of Christ as our Mediator and Savior is that as Head He is present with His members, gathering, ruling, defending, preserving, and saving His Church. For in all our afflictions and temptations—in the depraved infirmity of our nature, among the various offenses and the many pitfalls under the powerful tyranny and the rage of Satan, the world, and all the enemies of the church— our greatest and only comfort is our knowledge that Christ is present as our King, our High Priest, our Head, and the pastor of us who are His sheep in the midst of ravening wolves. He does not place the burdens of governing in His kingdom on the shoulders of others through delegated work, as the custom of our kings is, for the government is always on His shoulders (Is. 9:6), but when He Himself is present He cares for us, governs, defends, preserves, and saves us, as His peculiar people whom He has bought with His own blood. Ch. 30 (p.423)
We have, moreover, an express word and a specific promise instituted in a particular and definite way, ordained as a part of His will and testament by the Son of God Himself on the night in which He was betrayed, a promise which Christ ratified also after His ascension by sitting at the right hand of the Majesty in His glory in heaven, a promise which was repeated to Paul, a promise that He wills to be present with His body and blood in the observance of His Supper as it is celebrated in the gathering of the Church here on earth in accord with His institution. Ch. 30 (p.432) In the peculiar revelation of the divine will (the Supper), in the special promise attached to it, in the unique and earnest assertion, and thus in the testamentary arrangement or ordinance of the Son of God, the words state that Christ wills to be present in His Church with His Body and Blood, or according to His human nature, wherever His Supper is celebrated on earth. Through His assumed humanity, as through the organ which is akin to us, as the Fathers put it, He wills to bestow His benefits on us, to confirm and seal them, and thus to accomplish in the Church His work of giving us life, according to each nature, through His life-giving flesh. (p.434) [This is] a doctrine which is so full of consolation, that is, that the Son of God, our Mediator and Savior, according to the words of His testament wills to be present with His Church here on earth, which is fighting under the banner of the cross and struggling in this vale of tears. For He wishes to be present also in and with His assumed nature by which He is of the same substance with us, related to us, our Brother, our very flesh, according to which flesh He does not blush to call us His brothers and in which flesh He was tempted, so that He can share in our sufferings, according to which flesh Christ is our Head and we His members. And just as no one hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, so also Christ does to His Church, since we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bone (Eph. 5:29). Ch. 30 (p. 434-435)