An update (2016): The Ascension of Christ has long fascinated me. To me, it seems like a test case for a theologian’s doctrine of the Incarnation: Does Jesus Christ retain his humanity, even as he is crowned with all authority in heaven and earth, or does he leave it behind in some manner? Eusebius of Caesarea thought the latter and thus was condemned posthumously as a heretic and proto-iconoclast at the seventh ecumenical council (AD 787). One’s views on Christ’s ongoing life as a human were seen in the late patristic period and into the Middle Ages to have implications for a theology of images, sacraments, or the Church.

Setting aside these questions, I felt it necessary a couple years ago to do what theologians have classically done with the mysteries of Christ: celebrate them, rather than attempt to define them too closely. In that spirit of celebration, I offer again this poem. For a more theological take, see my “What the Ascension is (and isn’t)” (June 7, 2014). 

Ascension song

The riven earth trembles
As up-bearing angels
Host him unaware
Who dashed foot and hand and heart
With five open wounds,
Wine-staining his garments red
A shame to Massless spirits.

What king ever bore that hue
In lasting brands of God-filling ink,
As he spiraled up
Past circling spheres
And perfect-pitch choirs,
Past powers, puissant, pointed, preening?

Up, ever up,
Up with a shout,
Up with sinews singing,
Up with timbreled hands,
Up with pulsing, brazen feet,
Up with fluted heart and side,
Up with beaten, bell-tone crown.

It’s not for angels
That Abram’s seed sits scarred
At the right of power.
Nor for healthy, cherubic hordes
That such colored fullness
Dwells bodily in the heaven,
White with horror
At this ray of light
So singularly prismed.

But ‘a little while’ has passed,
And gates must be lifted,
Everlasting doors give way
Before the once-less-than
Fair King in all his beauty,
Man on Heaven’s throne.

Dr. Zachary Guiliano is the Editor of Covenant and an ordinand in the Diocese of Ely. 

The featured image comes via Vultus Christi, the blog of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, Ireland. 

About The Author

Dr. Zachary Guiliano is an associate editor of The Living Church.

He is currently finishing his first monograph, ‘Divine readings’ in Carolingian Europe: Charlemagne, reform, and the homiliary of Paul the Deacon. It focuses on the early history and manuscripts of an anthology of patristic homilies and sermons, commissioned and authorized by Charlemagne for use in the Daily Office. He is a contributing blogger at Anglican Communion News Service, and an ordinand of the Diocese of Ely.

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[…] Covenant is interested in publishing poetry on a regular basis, especially poetry that reflects on liturgical or theological themes. Similarly, we are interested essays investigating the theological character of well-known or obscure poems. If you or another reader write poems or essays of literary criticism and would like to submit some for consideration, e-mail zguiliano[at] Posts of this kind, published within the last year, include “Three poems for the end of Epiphany;” “Advent Calendar: on a poem by Rowan Williams;” “Likeness litany: facing the Image;” and “Ascension Song.”  […]