In those early hours of Pascha, some folks have grown a little rusty on their Orthodox lingo.
Imagine: “Christ is Risen!”
“Glorify Him!” (The Christmas response.)
Or … “Christ is Risen!”
And the inevitable reply: “Happy Easter!”
Then there’s the fun we have for 40 days in the shortened written form. Emails and letters end with just the letters XB, CA, or CR (Christos Voskrese, Christos Anesti, Christ is Risen) – and the reply comes back BB, AA, or TR (Voistinu Voskrese, Alithos Anesti, Truly Risen) …
Those who are like me, that is, a Rule Follower, are very strict about when you are allowed to say the Christ is Risen dialogue. It is my sinfulness, sure – but when I arrive to church before the Pascha service begins and someone says “Christ is Risen!” I’m tempted to say: “Not yet, He’s not!”
Then there are those who come to Holy Saturday morning Liturgy and say “Christ is Risen” when they kiss the Cross (because they won’t be there early tomorrow morning) … and I sin by thinking “Don’t say that! There’s another 13 hours to go yet!”
We say it, “Christ is Risen – Indeed, He is Risen” at the end of our services, our family prayers, answering the telephone, and concluding the blessing over food.
I say it when I kiss my kids good night …
And it’s them, the young children, that seem most disappointed when we no longer continue the Christ is Risen dialogue. “Why can’t we say it anymore?”
Well, that’s a good question. Why CAN’T we say it any more?
The answer: THE ASCENSION.
Now isn’t that horrible? We have a great feast like the Ascension of Christ to come along and, 1) it’s always on a Thursday, and 2) it concludes the biggest celebration of all, Pascha.
It’s like taking down the Christmas tree before the needles are even brown.
Oops! It’s the Ascension. Honeymoon’s over … everybody out of the pool!
Christ is Risen?
Not any more He ain’t.
Did you know there is an Ascension Dialogue? Yep. But, one of the problems is, there’s no one universal response …
Christ is Ascended!
He is Ascended in Glory!
Christ is Ascended!
From earth to heaven!
Christ is Ascended!
With a Shout!
Try that on your friends this week. Just go into the office and say “Oh, hi, Marge – Christ is Ascended!”
Maybe in the supermarket: “May I see your ID, please?”
“Sure, and Christ is Ascended!”
“Sir, do you know how fast you were going? May I see your license and registration?”
“Officer, first of all, let me just say: Christ is Ascended!”
None of that works, of course. It probably works just as poorly with Christ is Risen – or Christ is Born – to those not expecting it.
Face it, even the Orthodox are not so hip on the Ascension dialogue.
The world goes on with the mundane business of being the world, rarely being interrupted by Christians … and, even in the Church, we set our minds toward schools being dismissed, vacation plans, etc.
The Ascension … an awesome … but forgettable event.
Forty days after the celebration of Christ’s Resurrection, PASCHA, we celebrate the Great Feast of the Ascension of our Lord into heaven.
Jesus had spoken with His disciples on the Mount of Olives, concerning the coming of the Holy Spirit and, as they were looking on, He was lifted up, and a cloud took Him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as He went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, Who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw Him go into heaven.”
The Lord ascended to Heaven not to sadden us with His departure, but to fulfill His ministry among us.
It is to your advantage that I go away, He had told His disciples. [For] if I do not go away, the Comforter will not come to you (John 16:7). I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Comforter, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth…. The Comforter, the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name. He will teach you all things (John 14:16, 26).
The Lord knew the trials and tribulations that would be endured by His disciples — mockings, scourgings, imprisonment, even death. And thus the Lord ascended to His Heavenly Father that the Spirit might descend from the Father as the Comforter, and fortify His Friends.
One of our Lord’s friends was St Seraphim of Sarov, who lived 200 years ago. St Seraphim repeatedly broke with Pascha dialogue protocol. It is said that immediately upon seeing visitors – especially children, whom he loved – He’d make a prostration and greet them with a kiss, saying: “Christ is Risen! My Joy!”
To everyone he would say, no matter what time of the year it was, “Christ is Risen!” He called everyone, “my joy”.
This reminded them of the saving power of Christ’s Resurrection. Each left full of peace and joy and the desire to lead a life pleasing to God.
St. Seraphim helped people in many ways. When the people thanked him for what he had done, he told them: “Do not thank me; I am only the servant of Jesus Christ.”
Troparion of the Feast (Tone 4)
O Christ God, Thou hast ascended in Glory, granting joy to Thy disciples by the promise of the Holy Spirit. Through the blessing they were assured that Thou art the son of God, the Redeemer of the world!
Kontakion of the Feast (Tone 6)
When Thou didst fulfill the dispensation for our sake, and unite earth to heaven: Thou didst ascend in glory, O Christ our God, not being parted from those who love Thee, but remaining with them and crying: I am with you and no one will be against you!
St Seraphim of Sarov said that the purpose of the Christian life is the acquisition of the Holy Spirit.
And it is here that we find ourselves at this moment in time within the Church Year.
Christ is Risen!
Christ is Ascended!
And, brothers and sisters in Christ, while He yet prepares a place for us for our eternal joy, we remember the descent of the Comforter, the promise, the strength, the joy … of PENTECOST!
All the power, all the fruit of His divine Ascension, therefore, belong to us, for when He ascended on High, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men (Eph. 4:8).
This is why the Church, during Vespers of the Ascension, repeatedly proclaims: “Clap your hands, all you nations, for Christ is ascended up to the place where He was before!”
And, seeing as how I’ve broken the rules over two dozen times in this blog post, one last time before the piety police come to take me away:
CHRIST IS RISEN!
TRULY, HE IS RISEN!
He has ascended to sit at the right hand of the Father.
Come, Holy Spirit, Come!
This piece originally aired as an Orthodixie Podcast on Ancient Faith Radio.
For more on THE ASCENSION — go here.