May 25, 2023

Christ Ascended on a Cloud of Uncreated Glory (Fr. John Romanides)

By Protopresbyter Fr. John Romanides

One hears that Christ ascended into heaven in a cloud. On the one hand, if this person can think for himself, if this person has nothing to do with the experience of theosis, and if he has not even heard about it, he will start laughing when he reads such an account. He will say, “How is it possible for a man to sit on a cloud?” On the other hand, if this person is a superstitious Orthodox Christian, he will say, “Oh look, our sweet little Jesus did this miracle, too! He sat on a cloud and ascended into heaven.” And he will believe it. Someone else might even imagine that at the Ascension Christ began to be lifted up on a cloud as though it were an elevator.

But according to the Fathers, this ‘cloud’ is not a created cloud. It is not a mass of water droplets. This ‘cloud’ is the uncreated glory of God. In the Bible, the glory of God is called ‘a cloud,’ ‘light,’ and ‘fire.’ When the Bible mentions how ‘the pillar of fire’ and the ‘pillar of cloud’ went before the children of Israel in the desert, the Bible is referring to the same phenomenon — the glory of God (cf. Numbers 14:14). Hence, Christ did not ascend in or on a cloud of water droplets, nor did He go up to heaven as though He were riding an elevator. Rather, He ascended in glory, as the dismissal hymn for the feast of Transfiguration clearly states. In other words, Christ simply disappeared in the midst of uncreated glory before the Apostles’ eyes.

From the book Patristic Theology.

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