Ascension and Adoration  

Posted by Joe Rawls in

In my neck of the ecclesiastical woods, at least, it is rare for the Feast of the Ascension to be celebrated at all, let alone be the subject of theological reflection.  A partial remedy for this can be found in the following passage from The Activities of the Ascended Lord (London, 1891), by Anglican theologian George Body (1840-1911), a "Catholic Evangelical" who served at Durham Cathedral and at King's College, London.  Body points out the implications of Jesus' ascension for Christian worship, a topic which had never occurred to me before.

It can be found on pp 497-498 of the invaluable Love's Redeeming Work:  The Anglican Quest for Holiness (Oxford University Press 2001) compiled by Geoffrey Rowell, Kenneth Stevenson, and Rowan Williams.


But the distinctive worship of the Christian Church is the worship of the Incarnate God, the Man Christ Jesus, Who in our nature is seated at God's Right Hand, and in that nature is by us to be adored.  The Ascension Day marked a distinct crisis in the worship of God both in Heaven and on earth.  Until that mysterious morning when Jesus in His  assumed Humanity passed within the Veil and took His place within the true Holy of Holies, the "Agnus Dei", the great hymn of Christendom, had never rung through the courts of Heaven;  but when the thronging Angels watched the Ascent of the Sacred Humanity of Jesus--and saw its mysterious flight cease only when it was throned on the Right Hand of the Eternal--a new light flashed across their intellects, a new adoration filled their spirits, a new song burst from their lips, a new worship was begun, the worship of Jesus Christ:  "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing!" (Rev v. 12).  And as the Ascension of Jesus formed a crisis in the worship of Heaven, so was it also on earth.  "They worshipped Him"--His very withdrawal from among them, His very elevation to the Throne of God, was the development of new relations between the disciples and their Lord.  As long as He was on the earth the worship of Him was not the principal feature of their life; but as soon as He was withdrawn from them and seated at God's Right Hand in the Heavenly places, the adoration of the Lamb--the worship of Jesus Incarnate, Crucified, Risen, Ascended, Enthroned--the distinctive worship of the Christian Church--began to be.  And a new aspect stood revealed of that holy Eucharist which He had ordained:  it was to be the earthly centre of that glorious worship wherewith, in Heaven, in Paradise, and on earth, the Ascended Jesus is ever adored.

Julian of Norwich on God's Wrath  

Posted by Joe Rawls

Julian of Norwich lived ca 1342-1416 (few details  of her life are known, including her birth and death dates).  It is known that she lived as an anchoress in a cell located in a church in the East Anglian market town of Norwich.  Her fame rests on Revelations of Divine Love, a text describing visions she had during a prolonged period of illness.  It was, incidentally, the first literary work in Middle English by a woman. 

The excerpt below from chapter 46 is striking in its treatment of God's wrath.  Or rather, the non-existence of God's wrath.  In our own day, when entire ministries are based upon the presumed wrath of God, Julian's remarks will come across as hopeful and outrageous in equal measure.


But notwithstanding all this, I saw truthfully that our Lord was never angry, nor ever shall be, for he is God:  He is good, He is life, He is truth, He is love, He is peace; and His power, His wisdom, His love, and His unity do not allow Him to be angry (For I saw truly that it is against the character of His power to be angry, and against the character of His wisdom, and against the character of His goodness).  God is the goodness that cannot be angry, for He is nothing but goodness.  Our soul is one-ed to Him who is unchangeable goodness, and between God and our soul is neither anger nor forgiveness, as He sees it.  For our soul is so completely one-ed to God by His own goodness, that there can be absolutely nothing at all separating God and soul.

Athanasius on the Incarnation  

Posted by Joe Rawls in ,

Athanasius, Patriarch of Alexandria (298-May 2, 373), was a towering figure in the 4th-century church.  As a young deacon he attended the Council of Nicea and was a lifelong opponent of Arianism.  While patriarch he defined the list of 27 books which was eventually accepted universally as the New Testament canon.  He wrote a life of St Antony the Great that greatly stimulated the growth of monasticism.  And his tenure as a church leader was anything but placid; he was deposed and sent into exile by imperial edict a total of five times, as Arianism fell into or out of favor with various emperors. 

Among other things, Athanasius is famous for having said, "God became man that man might become God."  I thought it would be interesting to see the context in which this aphorism occurs.  It is found towards the end of his treatise On the Incarnation and is tied in with Athanasius' conception of the Incarnation, which has a decidedly kenotic cast. 


54  As, then, he who desires to see God Who by nature is invisible and not to be beheld may yet perceive and know Him through His works, so too let him who does not see Christ with his understanding at least consider Him in His bodily works, and test whether they be of man or God.  If they be of man, then let him scoff, but if they be of God, let him not mock at things which are not fit subject for scorn, but rather let him recognize the fact and marvel that things divine have been revealed to us by such humble means, that through death deathlessness has been made known to us, and through the Incarnation of the Word the Mind whence all things proceed has been declared, and its Agent and Ordainer, the Word of God Himself.  He, indeed, assumed humanity that we might become God.  He manifested Himself by means of a body in order that we might perceive the Mind of the unseen Father.  He endured shame from men that we might inherit immortality.