Today’s feast, the Ascension of the Lord, or as it’s referred to in Serbian Spasovdan (day of salvation) is also the Slava of the city of Belgrade. It’s referred to as the day of salvation since our Lord finished His act of salvation with His glorious Ascension. But also, spiritually speaking, the Ascension belongs only to the saved. Or, as Metropolitan Hierotheos writes, citing St. Gregory Palamas, “the Resurrection is connected with all men, but the Ascension only with the saints.” He continues:
“This is said from the from the point of view that by His Resurrection Christ conquered death and gave the gift of Resurrection to all. All will be resurrected on the day of Christ’s Second Coming, both righteous and sinners, but not all will be taken up. Only the righteous, the deified will be found worthy of this great experience. The Apostle Paul confesses: “And those who have died in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (I Thess. 4:16-17).” (M. Hierotheos, The Twelve Feasts of the Lord)
In other words, as we confess in the Creed that we look forward to the resurrection of the dead it is also – and perhaps more so – our hope that we ascend to that “life of the world to come”. For while all the saving events from the earthly life of our Lord and Savior are uniquely salvific and “no one can evaluate one above the other” (ibid), it is our participation in them which differs. Namely:
“First we are born with Christ, then we suffer with Christ, then we conquer the power of the devil and are resurrected, and lastly we can even experience deification. It is precisely the feast of the Ascension which the Fathers connect with the deification of man. [….] Thus all will be resurrected, but only the righteous will be taken up….That is why, from the soteriological point of view, the Ascension is regarded as a greater feast, precisely because he who has a share in the Ascension has a share in deification.”
A happy and blessed feast to all.