“Hence comes foreknowledge of the future, understanding of mysteries, apprehension of what is hidden, distribution of good gifts, the heavenly citizenship, a place in the chorus of angels, joy without end, abiding in God, the being made like to God, and, highest of all, ,the being made God!” (St Basil, On the Holy Spirit, IX).
Beginning with the Apostles, and through communion with them – by an unbroken succession – Grace is spread to all believers. Through renewal and glorification in the Ascended Christ, man’s nature became receptive of the Spirit. “And unto the world He gives quickening forces through His human body,” says Bishop Theophanes.
“He holds it completely in Himself and penetrates it with His strength, out of Himself; and He likewise draws the angels to Himself through the spirit of man, giving them space for action and thus making them blessed.”
All this is done through the Church, which is “the Body of Christ;” that is, His “fullness” (Ephesians 1:23). “The Church is the fulfillment of Christ,” continues Bishop Theophanes, “perhaps in the same way as the tree is the fulfillment of the seed. That which is contained in the seed in a contracted form receives its development in the tree.”
The very existence of the Church is the fruit of the Ascension. It is in the Church that man’s nature is truly ascended to the Divine heights. “And gave Him to be Head over all things” (Ephesians 1:22).
St John Chrysostom comments: “Amazing! Look again, whither He has raised the Church. As though He were lifting it up by some engine, He has raised it up to a vast height, and set it on yonder throne; for where the Head is, there is the body also.
“There is no interval of separation between the Head and the body; for were there a separation, then would the one no longer be a body, nor would the other any longer be a Head.”
The whole race of men is to follow Christ, even in His ultimate exaltation, “to follow in His train.” Within the Church, through an acquisition of the Spirit in the fellowship of Sacraments, the Ascension continues still, and will continue until the measure is full.
“Only then shall the Head be filled up, when the body is rendered perfect, when we are knit together and united,” concludes St John Chrysostom. The Ascension is a sign and token of the Second Coming. “This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).
Georges Florovsky (1893-1979; Eastern Orthodox): And Ascended Into Heaven…; originally published in St Vladimir’s Seminary Quarterly, Vol. 2 # 3, 1954; full text @ Mystagogy.