[A transcript from today’s homily delivered by Bishop Maxim on the Feast of the Lord’s Ascension.]
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
We are in the Paschal and Pentecostal season. That is the season of the church and that is the cycle of events that mark the entire Christian existence. So then the entire life of us Christians is a Pentecostal and Paschal event.
Today we celebrate the feast of Christ’s Ascension which is also called the Day of the Savior, Spasovdan. And the meaning of this feast is so moving that it is truly worthy of us mentioning at least a few aspects of it.
As we know, after Christ’s Resurrection He spent forty days with His Disciples teaching them. And by teaching I mean not giving them instruction but simply being with them and with His way of living showing what it truly means to live the way of the uncreated. And by ascending today He took with Him His human nature to the realm of the uncreated God. We call it heaven but it’s even more than that.
When He left the Disciples they were not sorrowful as we heard in the Gospel, they returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And one can wonder how someone can be joyful when ones most beloved persons departs and leaves.
But, dear brothers and sisters, in the Church the absence is not what it is in the created existence, in our everyday life; especially when we speak of the presence of the absence in terms of Christology. Christ is never absent from the Church because He is the head of the Church but His seemingly absence is the real presence. Why: Because He leaves it to our freedom to accept His presence as a free event of our own freedom. That negates our conventional logic and affirms the logic of the resurrection, the logic of God who is not visible but is visibly present in our lives and the entire creation. So by celebrating Christ’s Ascension we affirm our freedom as human beings, we affirm our faith in the visible God, with His promise, the promise of the Holy Spirit, which keeps the Church alive and also gives the certainty of faith to the entire universe and the physical absence of Christ is filled with the presence of the Holy Spirit.
And that’s the next celebration, the next feast we are going to celebrate very soon. We see already how all these dimensions are intertwined in our life: the Spirit, Christ, the Trinity, the Church as the image of that existence. So that even those who are absent today at the liturgy we know they are present in the Holy Spirit, that mysterious person who fills and fulfills everything that Christ has promised His Church, His Disciples and to us Christians of all generations.
May God bless you all and may we all, with certainty of faith and our freedom, accept this physical absence as a real presence of the Eucharist so that we be faithful disciples of the Lord.