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O GOD, the King of glory, who hast exalted thine only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph unto thy kingdom in heaven; We beseech thee, leave us not comfortless; but send to us thine Holy Ghost to comfort us, and exalt us unto the same place whither our Saviour Christ is gone before, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

 

Exalted and Comforted

Augusta canal drops over its course from the Savannah River north of the fall line to the center of Augusta, giving it power to run mills.  There is a 52-foot drop in the fall line.

This means that the altitude of the higher part is 52’ higher than the lower part.  “Alt” in altitude means “high”.  We see this in the word “exalt”, which means to raise up on high.

So when we pray in today’s collect that the King of glory has exalted Christ with triumph unto his kingdom, it means that God the Father has raised God the Son up on high with triumph unto his kingdom in Heaven.  This exaltation refers to Christ’s Ascension into Heaven, the feast of which we celebrated here on Thursday.

Then in the collect, we ask that God the Father send to us his Holy Ghost to comfort.  Comfort means to strengthen.  Think of the communion hymn, Strengthen for Service Lord.  Comfort might also mean consolation, but it would be the consolation which rests upon strength.

We ask that God the Father exalt us unto the same place Christ has gone, which is God’s kingdom in Heaven.  We are joined in one Body with Christ.  With Christ as our Head, we as His Body enjoy salvation, forgiveness of sins, everlasting life, and communion with God the Father.  We do not earn this on our own.  We cannot reach Heaven by any effort we make.  But through Christ, we can do all things.  As He is received into Heaven, so too we will be received into Heaven.

Indeed, this four-hundred-and-sixty-five-year-old collect asks God to exalt us just as he has exalted Christ.  Being joined with Christ, we also attain Heaven with Christ.  We are along for the ride, as it were.  Yet in today’s collect we ask God the Father to make it so.  This is precisely along the same lines of praying in the Lord’s Prayer, “thy will be done”.  We pray for the promises of God to come to fruition.

These ten days between Christ’s Ascension to the right hand of God the Father and the coming of the Holy Ghost on Pentecost are particularly interesting.  If you look at the entirety of salvation history, you see God moving upon the cosmos and amongst men.  God created the heavens and the earth.  He moved amongst the patriarchs and prophets, setting Israel apart as a holy nation and giving her the Law of Moses.  God’s revelation continued amongst men, preparing the way for the advent of his messiah and turning to a more spiritual understanding of the Law.

“The Word became flesh and we beheld His glory” in the Person of Jesus Christ, Who is both entirely God and entirely Man.  He suffered, died, and rose again from the dead, confounding Hell and Satan and bringing us all eternal life.  After He taught His disciples for forty days, explaining to them His teachings understood in the light of His Resurrection, He ascended to Heaven.  But first He promised that He would send to His faithful people a comforter, “even the Spirit of truth”.

Why did Christ ascend into Heaven and leave us behind here on earth?  He promised to come again, so we can rest assured that our time on this fragile, sinful, and murderous world is of some value to God.  Seeing as how we are to participate in Christ’s ministry of reconciliation, we should be about grieving with those who grieve and weeping with those who weep and rejoicing with those who rejoice.  We should be loving the Lord our God with all our hearts, minds, and souls.  We should be loving our neighbors as ourselves.  We should be preaching the Gospel in season and out of season.

But why did Christ ascend into Heaven at all?  First, He went to the right of the Father to intercede on behalf of us.  Through the veil of His flesh do we enter into the Holy of Holies in Heaven.  We who are joined to Christ in Holy Baptism are represented in Heaven by our great intercessor, our great High Priest, the Son of God Himself.

Second, His time on earth was done.  Christ ascended into Heaven because He had accomplished that which He had set out to do.  He had sanctified our flesh by becoming one of us, He had taught the people of Israel and His disciples His holy teachings, He suffered for us, died for us, and then rose again from the dead for us.

Then, He proved to many people in person that He was indeed raised from the dead, showing His five sacred wounds of nails and spear.  He unfolded and explained the Scriptures to them to show that His Advent, Passion, Death, and Resurrection were all foretold.  He then commissioned the disciples with the breath of the Holy Ghost to preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth.  The religion of the Old Testament was completed with Christ and was then to be taught to the Gentiles.  Christ showed His disciples these things.

Having completed His work here on earth, Christ was not about to leave the fledging Church without divine inspiration.  As God moved upon creation with the patriarchs, Law, prophets, and Christ, so God would move upon creation with the presence of the Holy Ghost.  The Holy Ghost strengthens Christ’s Church upon earth exactly according to His promise of old.

When the Church acts in unity together with Christ, she speaks the truth of God.  The Holy Ghost is in her.  It is through the acclamation of Holy Church that the writings of the New Testament were canonized.  Why was Jude included and Clement I not included?  Because Christ’s Bride the Church discerns it to be so.  Why do we have the threefold ministry of bishops, priests, and deacons?  Because Christ’s Body the Church discerns it to be so.

We will one day come home to live with our Heavenly Father through His Son our Lord Jesus Christ.  We today are strengthened and renewed by the Holy Ghost which eternally proceeds forth from God the Father and is sent by God the Son into the world.  These three – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost – are three divine Persons but one God sharing the nature of divinity.  We are not alone.  Today we are in the presence of God in the Person of the Holy Ghost, the Comforter.

Dear children of God, do not be overcome by this deadly and sad world.  Every week, members of this parish share their joys and sorrows with me, and we have sorrows indeed.  The world is a dangerous and sinful place.  But you and I are heading towards Heaven and are protected, guided, and strengthened by God the Holy Ghost!

 

O GOD, the King of glory, who hast exalted thine only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph unto thy kingdom in heaven; We beseech thee, leave us not comfortless; but send to us thine Holy Ghost to comfort us, and exalt us unto the same place whither our Saviour Christ is gone before, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

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