By Zachary Guiliano

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 being 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

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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
Now-surpassing-angelic
Fair King in all his beauty,
Man on Heaven’s throne.

 

About The Author

The Rev. Dr. Zachary Guiliano is an associate editor of The Living Church and a priest of the Church of England serving as assistant curate at St. Bene’t’s Church, Cambridge.

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