The commemoration of CHRIST’S Ascension at the expiration of forty days after the resurrection, has always been observed as a festival in the Church.
The Psalms for the morning service are the 8th, 15th, and 21st. The 8th psalm, which is employed in magnifying GOD for his goodness to mankind, may be prophetically applied to the greatest of all mercies, that of exalting our human nature, by the SON OF GOD assuming our flesh, and ascending with it to heaven.* The 15th psalm represents the Saviour, the only person who possessed the perfection of righteousness displayed in the psalm, as ascending “the holy hill,” the highest heavens, of which mount Zion was a type. In the 21st psalm, which was plainly fulfilled in the Saviour’s ascension, the Church celebrates the glory and stability of his kingdom, his triumphant victory over his “enemies” and his glorious “exaltation in his own strength” as GOD, who was abased in much weakness as man.
The Psalms for the evening service are the 24th, 47th, and 103d. The 24th psalm was written on occasion of the moving of the ark to Mount Zion, and is supposed to have been sung as the solemn procession ascended the hill; it is prophetically applied to the establishment of the Christian Church, and to CHRIST’S ascension into heaven. The 47th psalm alludes to the ascent of the ark, which we spiritually apply to the ascent of our LORD. The 103d psalm is an animating act of thanksgiving to GOD for his mercy and love to mankind; the greatest display of which was this day afforded, in his merciful acceptance of the intercession of his Son JESUS, who this day went to heaven to plead the merits of his blood in our behalf.
The first Lesson for the morning service (2 Kings ii.) contains the history of the taking up of Elijah into heaven, and his conferring a double portion of his spirit on Elisha; which may prefigure our Saviour’s ascension, and the sending down of the fullness of his SPIRIT on the apostles and disciples. The first Lesson for the evening (Deut. x.) records the ascent of Moses in the mount, to receive the law from GOD, in order to deliver it to the Jews; which event was a type of our Saviour’s ascension into heaven, to send down the law of faith, the perfection and consummation of the old law. The second Lessons, and the Epistle and Gospel, are all obviously appropriate to the day.
* Heb. Ii. 6, &c.
[Excerpt from John Henry Hobart, A Companion for the Book of Common Prayer, Containing an Explanation of the Service, 101-103. 1859.]