A Collect for the Feast of the Ascension

Almighty God, whose blessed Son our Savior Jesus Christ ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things: Mercifully give us faith to perceive that, according to his promise, he abides with his Church on earth, even to the end of the ages; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

While preparing for Wednesday Eucharist, this collect caught my attention. I immediately assumed that it was modern, but no, according to Hatchett, it derives from the Leonine sacramentary. The first thing that caught my attention was the phrase “that he might fill all things.” My assumptions must have been in overdrive because I thought it had to be a typo–“fill” instead of “fulfill.” But no. Jesus Christ ascended into heaven [so that] he might fill all things. Ascension is not about explaining why Jesus is no longer present among us but about proclaiming Christ’s omnipresence in the universe; to use the words from the Epistle of the Day, he is “all in all.”

Even more interesting is the focus of the petition. The prayer is not asking help for us to believe in the ascension, but rather that we might have faith to “perceive that … he abides with his Church.” To put it another way, it’s harder to believe in Christ’s continuing presence in the Church than in the Ascension.

On second thought, that might not be so strange at all, given the realities of the church in the twenty-first century.

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