Music Notes | Ascension Day

Eric Mellenbruch
Associate Director of Music and Organist

The accounts of the Ascension in Luke’s Gospel and Acts of the Apostles put into vivid, physical terms what is already explored in the Epistles to the Ephesians and the Hebrews; these images are echoed in the prayers and psalmody appointed for the feast and in several excellent hymns (see also 435 and 460).
Prominent among these is ‘See the Conqueror mounts in triumph’, whose first stanza draws upon Psalms 24, 68, and 104, and its second upon the Lucan narrative. These celebrate the Son’s triumphal entry into heaven, his return to his rightful place beside the Father, having defeated death.
The third stanza turns to the aforementioned Epistles, where we read of the Ascension’s ultimate import: the Son not only took on human flesh, but took that very flesh, wounded yet redeemed and transformed, to the Throne of God; thus the renewed Creation of which Christ is the first fruits becomes part of heaven itself. Our poet concludes: ‘Mighty Lord, in thine ascension, we by faith behold our own.’
Our other hymn, ‘The Lord ascendeth up on high’, covers some of this same ground, but it touches upon another aspect of the Ascension: ‘Our great High Priest hath gone before, upon his Church his grace to pour.’ Our Lord tells his followers that he must depart so that his promise may be fulfilled; the divine presence discernible by the physical senses must yield to that perceptible through faith, for the increase thereof; the Son’s power, once concentrated in his single human body, will now be dispersed among his Body, the Church, and his Body, the Sacrament. 
Finally, we are promised that Christ will come again ‘in the same way that he ascended’. What is this way? With blessing, says St Luke. And then will be completed what we even now affirm: ‘there we sit in heavenly places, there with thee in glory stand.’

This entry was posted in Music Notes and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.