Friday, May 30, 2014

Fr. Wells on Ascensiontide

by Fr. Laurence Wells

The word “humanism” usually does not sound good in Christian conversation.  When preachers describe someone as a “humanist” it is probably not to pay a compliment.  These terms have unfortunately been kidnapped or surrendered to an atheistic point of view which claims that man is the measure of all things.  Human history is mostly the out-working of the serpent’s false promise, “ye shall be as gods, knowing [i.e. determining] good and evil.”  The net result of that deceit is man’s vain-glorious ambition displayed at the tower of Babel, “let us make a name for ourselves.”This insolent rebellion continues to manifest itself  in godless secularism, our futile attempt to live as if God did not exist.

Ascension Day offers us a clear and hopeful alternative to the humanism which led Adam and Eve into spiritual exile in a harsh and cruel world of toil and sweat, or the frustration and confusion of the Tower of Babel.
When our dear Lord was “taken up” He did not cease to be human.  The central truth of our precious faith is summed up in the word Incarnation:  in Jesus Christ God truly became man, taking not only our nature but submitting to our condition also, our frailty and our mortality.  But this was no brief or temporary episode. He not only became man at Bethlehem  or lived as a man at Nazareth or Capernaum He died as a man at Calvary and was Raised as a man on the “third day.”  At his Ascension He carried our human nature into heaven, taking our true flesh and blood into the very presence of His Father. In His Ascension we see at last a humanism worthy of the name.
On Ascension Day we have an answer to the question of Psalm 8:4, “What is man that thou art mindful of him, or the son of man that thou visitest him?”  As the Lord Jesus was taken up, the God incarnate, Man divine, was truly crowned with glory and honour.” 
In the Ascension of Jesus Christ we celebrate not only His exaltation but our own final destiny.  As He was raised, so we shall be raised from the dead.  As He was taken up, we too will be exalted in the presence of His Father.

He promised, “I go to prepare a place for you....In my father’s house there are many mansions.” The Proper Preface for Ascensiontide declares, “That where He is, thither we might also ascend, and reign with Him in glory.”  Here is a genuine humanism worthy of the name.

There is no hymn in our hymnal more audacious than Bishop Wordsworth great hymn, "See the conqueror mounts in triumph" with its bold line, "man with God is on the throne."  No modern secular humanist ever went so far. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks to Fr. Wells for this spirited defence of 'humanism'! I have often been astonished at how readily the term is surrendered to its hijackers or wordnappers: 'But (I think) what of Christian humanism?'

C.S. Lewis, notably in the "Introduction" to his English Literature in the Sixteenth Century, devotes considerable attention to the complexities (including the darker aspects)of Renaissance 'humanism' and humanists (nearly all of whom he identifies as Christian: "'Humanists' in the modern sense hardly existed").

He says "we are their endless debtors" in thst they "recovered, edited, and expounded a great many ancient texts in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew", noting "we owe nearly all our Greeks, and many of our Latins, to the humanists: also, a prodigious advance in philology and textual criticism."

'Humanism'in this sense has, at its best, in the course of the past 500 years, been of great service to our intelligent service of God truly become man.