In the Office: Ascension

I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14)

For those who follow the liturgical rhythms of the Church universal, today is Ascension Day — a day to remember that moment in which Jesus was “taken up” to heaven following his resurrection (see Acts 1:6-11). But before we get too fixated on images of Jesus rising into the sky and disappearing from sight, it’s worth remembering that what Ascension Day truly celebrates is his ascension to the throne. At the heart of resurrection faith is the contention not only that Jesus lives, but that Jesus reigns. And that’s why the readings in today’s Daily Office focus on God’s eternal kingdom, which now has Christ as its head. The Old Testament lesson (Daniel 7:9-14) tells us that “His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away.” The New Testament lesson (Hebrews 2:5-18) describes the work of Jesus, “who was made lower than the angels for a little while, (and is) now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death.” And in the gospel lesson (Matthew 28:16-20), Jesus declares, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”

ascension

Of course, it’s easy for most of to believe that Jesus reigns in some “spiritual” or “other-worldly” sense. But especially when we look around at a world that seems so broken — and in which there remains so much hatred and tragedy and sin — it can be a struggle to accept that “the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 11:15).

But to a certain extent, that’s where we come in. When we trust in Christ’s reign and live as His loyal subjects — when we find greatness in serving others, and respond to hatred with love…when we declare our Sovereign’s majesty, and seek to be a blessing as we ourselves have been blessed — then we “make manifest” the kingdom of God. And we create the kind of conditions that make it possible for others to see it, to believe in it, and to enter it themselves.

“Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy,” today’s psalm declares; “for the LORD Most High is awesome, the great King over all the earth.” May Jesus reign in us, my friends. And through our joyful submission to His rule, may we expand His kingdom’s embrace.

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