When we separate from someone, we are sad, but the disciples returned with great joy from the Mount of Olives for two reasons, His Beatitude Patriarch Daniel stressed on Thursday during his homily on the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord.
Why? ‘Because they received Christ’s blessing and because he promised them that He would soon send the Most Holy Spirit,’ Patriarch Daniel said June 6.
The Patriarch of Romania presided over the festal Divine Liturgy at the Patriarchal Cathedral having as concelebrants his patriarchal auxiliary bishops Varlaam of Ploiesti and Ieronim of Sinaia.
During his sermon delivered after the proclamation of the Gospel, the Romanian Patriarch spoke about the joy Christ inspired His Apostles with and the mission they were pedagogically prepared for.
The Patriarch explained the significance of the cloud that appeared at Christ’s Ascension and referred to the prediction of the two angels on the Mount of Olives.
Mount of Olives – Mount of Blessing
His Beatitude Patriarch Daniel noted that the Saviour ascended into heaven from the Mount of Olives because the mountain is ‘the place where earth ascends to heaven,’ but also for the significance of that place since Jesus passed through on his way to Bethany.
‘Mount Olivet or the Mount of Olives makes us think about oil, the olive oil which was a symbol of blessing,’ His Beatitude said, recalling that ‘While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven.’
‘So the Saviour’s ascension into heaven happened at the same time with the blessing He shared with His disciples. We see here the mystery of the Church living from Christ’s blessing.’
‘Christ the ascended into heaven Lord always blesses those who believe in Him, love Him and fulfil His will in their lives.’
After they parted ‘with great joy’, the Apostles were ‘actively waiting’ to receive the Holy Spirit, Patriarch Daniel pointed out.
‘Their expectation to receive the promised Holy Spirit is an active not passive waiting, in prayer, in gratitude brought to God for the gifts received and with hope.’
Reflecting on the day’s Bible readings, Patriarch Daniel noted that Christ showed Himself many times to His disciples forty days after the Resurrection and spoke with them about ‘the Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven.’
Highlighting Christ’s pedagogy, the Patriarch of Romania said that Jesus Christ appeared from time to time to convince the disciples that He is alive and he became invisible to show that He had a different way of existence, he had eternal life.
‘His appearances several times, and then His disappearance or retreat when he became invisible was a pedagogy to prepare His disciples for the coming of the Holy Spirit because through the Holy Spirit Christ is always in His Church.’
Cloud from the Lord’s Ascension
Patriarch Daniel used his sermon to explain the meaning of the cloud that appeared during the Ascension of the Lord, but also at His Transfiguration.
‘The cloud points to the presence of the Holy Spirit,’ the Patriarch underscored.
‘Through the Holy Spirit, Christ came down on earth, was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and now He ascends into heaven in the presence of the Holy Spirit.’
Why? ‘To show us that the Holy Spirit cleanses from sin, he sanctifies, illumines and raises man, elevating him spiritually to heaven.’
Citing an interpretation of Saint John Chrysostom, the Patriarch said that the cloud is not only a sign of the Holy Spirit but also the Imperial Throne and the Father’s Throne, thus stressing the presence of the entire Holy Trinity.
Ascension announces Parousia
The presence of the two angels on Mount Olivet and their words announce the second coming of the Saviour, Patriarch Daniel said.
The angels told the Apostles, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.’
‘As Christ was proclaimed by the angels when He was born in Bethlehem, so at the Ascension, the angels announce the Parousia, the second coming of the Saviour at the end of the ages,’ His Beatitude noted ending his speech.
Following the Divine Liturgy, Bishop Varlaam officiated a memorial service for Romania’s national heroes.
Photography courtesy of Basilica.ro