Feast of the Ascension – Homily by St. John Chrysostom

St. John Chrysostom Homily II on the Acts of the Apostles

And having this said, while they beheld, He was taken up; and a cloud received Him out of their sight Acts 1:9. Do you see that they did preach and fulfil the Gospel? For great was the gift He had bestowed on them. In the very place, He says, where you are afraid, that is, in Jerusalem, there preach ye first, and afterwards unto the uttermost part of the earth. Then for assurance of what He had said, While they beheld, He was taken up. Not while they beheld did He rise from the dead, but while they beheld, He was taken up. Inasmuch, however, as the sight of their eyes even here was not all-sufficient; for in the Resurrection they saw the end, but not the beginning, and in the Ascension they saw the beginning, but not the end: because in the former it had been superfluous to have seen the beginning, the Lord Himself Who spoke these things being present, and the sepulchre showing clearly that He is not there; but in the latter, they needed to be informed of the sequel by word of others: inasmuch then as their eyes do not suffice to show them the height above, nor to inform them whether He is actually gone up into heaven, or only seemingly into heaven, see then what follows. That it was Jesus Himself they knew from the fact that He had been conversing with them (for had they seen only from a distance, they could not have recognized Him by sight), but that He is taken up into Heaven the Angels themselves inform them. Observe how it is ordered, that not all is done by the Spirit, but the eyes also do their part. But why did a cloud receive Him? This too was a sure sign that He went up to Heaven. Not fire, as in the case of Elijah, nor fiery chariot, but a cloud received Him; which was a symbol of Heaven, as the Prophet says; Who makes the clouds His chariot Psalm 104:3; it is of the Father Himself that this is said. Therefore he says, on a cloud; in the symbol, he would say, of the Divine power, for no other Power is seen to appear on a cloud. For hear again what another Prophet says: The Lord sits upon a light cloud Isaiah 19:1. For it was while they were listening with great attention to what He was saying, and this in answer to a very interesting question, and with their minds fully aroused and quite awake, that this thing took place. Also on the mount [Sinai] the cloud was because of Him: since Moses also entered into the darkness, but the cloud there was not because of Moses. And He did not merely say, I go, lest they should again grieve, but He said, I send the Spirit John 16:5-7; and that He was going away into heaven they saw with their eyes. O what a sight they were granted! And while they looked steadfastly, it is said, toward heaven, as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, You men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven— they used the expression This demonstratively, saying, this Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall thus— demonstratively, in this way— come in like manner as you have seen Him going into heaven. (v. 10-11.) Again, the outward appearance is cheering [in white apparel]. They were Angels, in the form of men. And they say, You men of Galilee: they showed themselves to be trusted by the disciples, by saying, You men of Galilee. For this was the meaning: else, what needed they to be told of their country, who knew it well enough? By their appearance also they attracted their regard, and showed that they were from heaven. But wherefore does not Christ Himself tell them these things, instead of the Angels? He had beforehand told them all things; [What if you shall see the Son of Man] going up where He was before? John 6:62.

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