Gleanings from the Collects: The Seventh Sunday of Easter: The Sunday After Ascension Day

O God, the King of glory, you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven: Do not leave us comfortless, but send us your Holy Spirit to strengthen us, and exalt us to that place where our Savior Christ has gone before; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen. 

This collect was taken from an antiphon[1]that was sung at Vespers[2]on the day of the Ascension, 40 days after Easter. It is reported to be the antiphon sung by the Venerable Bede[3]as he died in 735AD. It is the collect appointed for the Sunday after the Ascension Day in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer as well as the 1928 and 1979 BCP. 

The prayer begins by addressing God as “the King of Glory.” This title is most appropriate as it is the title used in the prophecy of Jesus’ ascension in Psalm 24. 

“Lift up your heads, O gates.

  And be lifted up, O ancient doors,

that the King of glory may come in.

Who is this King of glory?

The Lord, strong and mighty,

The Lord, mighty in battle!

Lift up your heads, O gates!

And lift them up, O ancient doors,

that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?

The Lord of hosts,

he is the King of glory!”

Next the collect speaks of Jesus being “exalted…with great triumph.” The letter of St. Paul to the Philippians confirms this truth. He states, “For this reason also, God highly exalted Him and bestowed upon Him the name which is above every name so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in the heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God that Father.”[4]

As we are in the period between Jesus’ ascension and Pentecost, when Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to the Church, it is very appropriate to pray, “Do not leave us comfortless, but send us your Holy Spirit to strengthen us.”[5]Through this prayer we prepare the way for Pentecost which is celebrated the following Sunday.

When we pray, “exalt us to that place where our Savior Christ has gone before” we are reminded of an amazing Christian hope. We will not only be raised from the dead but also we will be exalted with Christ. St. Peter speaks of Christians being “partakers of the divine nature.”[6]This does not mean that we become little gods rather that we will be incorporated into the union and love of the Blessed Trinity. As Jesus prayed, “ that they may all be one, even as You, Father are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in us…the glory which You have given Me, I have given to them…”[7]

The unity and Christlikeness that we strive feebly for in this life will become our very nature. There will be no more battles with the flesh, the world or the devil. No more separation and loneliness, no more doubt or despair. All wants will be gone and we will know love in its perfection as we “dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”[8]

In the meantime we can raise our hearts and minds beyond what is around us because what is around us is only a partial reality. There is also an invisible kingdom that is unfolding. Consequently we are not limited to an earthly perspective.  Jesus’ ascension impacts us in the here and now if we will allow it to do so. St. Paul wrote to the Colossians, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”[9]

[1]A brief sentence that is said or sung before or after the Psalm

[2]A service of evening prayer in the Divine Office

[3]Anglo-Saxon priest and scholar who wrote history and grammar, as well as biographies and biblical commentaries. d. 735 

[4]Philippians 2:9-11 NASB 

[5]Of course we know the Pentecost happened 50 days after Jesus’ resurrection and that the Spirit has already been sent to the Church. But the point of following the Christian calendar is to walk with Jesus through those historic moments. Additionally the salvific work of God, when it occurred in time and space, is also eternal in nature. Revelation speaks of the Lamb being slain from the foundation of the world (3:8 KJV). From our limited perspective the redemption of Christ looked back as well as forward. The work of God, who is outside of time, is in the eternal present because He is I AM. Thus when we enter into heavenly worship we are doing more than just remembering an event in the past. The Eucharist is more than a memorial meal. While Jesus is not being sacrificed again in the Mass, He is being re-presented to us in the eternal present and so we partake not just bread and wine but also His Body and Blood.

[6]2 Peter 1:4

[7]John 17:21,22

[8]Psalm 23:6

[9]Colossians 3:1-3

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