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May 17, 2018

Canon of the Ascension (St. John of Damascus)


The Canon is by Saint John of Damascus, who borrows much of his imagery from the Old and New Testaments. Some of the texts used, apart from the account in Acts 1, are Psalm 23:7-10, Ezekiel 1:19, Ephesians 2:6, "He raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus," Hebrews 1:3; 12:2, Apocalypse 3:21. The opening Troparion of the first Ode makes use of Psalm 17:11, "He mounted on the Cherubim and he flew, he flew on the wings of the winds." The Fathers explain that, just as the two Angels appeared in human form so that they would be visible to the Apostles, so the Cherubim appeared in the form of a cloud to carry Christ to heaven. As Saint John Chrysostom says, "For the Son a royal throne was sent, and not simply a royal throne, but that of the Father himself. For Isaiah says of the Father, 'See, the Lord sits on a luminous cloud.' Since then the Father sits on a cloud, therefore he also sent a cloud for the Son."

Throughout the Canon, Saint John of Damscus stresses the fact that by Christ's Ascension in His humanity, in the flesh, our human nature has entered and been glorified in heaven.

In Ode 7 the poet interprets the lost sheep of the parable [Luke 15:4-6] as an image of fallen human nature, an image which is also to be found in the Dogmatikon in Tone 4. The same idea is found in Saint Gregory of Nyssa, "The One who shepherds the whole rational creation, leaving behind the unerring and supernatural flock in the heights, in his love for humanity goes in search of the erring sheep (I mean our nature)."

There are problems with the text of the Canon and Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite points out that five of the Theotokia and a number of Troparia in some of the Odes are not to be found in the manuscript Pentecostarion. There is evidence elsewhere that Theotokia were often standard ones that fit the melody of the Irmos and were not specially written for particular canons.


Ode 1. Tone 5. Irmos.

To God the Savior who guided the people in the sea dry-shod, and drowned Pharaoh with all his host, to him alone let us sing: for he has been glorified.


All peoples, let us sing a song of victory to Christ who has been taken up with glory on the shoulders of the Cherubim, and seated us at the Father’s right hand; for he has been glorified.

The choirs of Angels were astounded when they saw Christ, the mediator between God and humankind in the highest with his flesh, while with one voice they sang a hymn of victory.

To God, who appeared on mount Sinai and gave the law to Moses, who saw God, and who was taken up in the flesh from the mount of Olives, let us all sing; for he has been glorified.


Immaculate Mother of God, without ceasing implore the God who was incarnate from you, yet did not depart from the bosom of his Begetter, to save from every calamity those whom he fashioned.

Ode 3. Irmos.

By the power of your Cross, O Christ, establish my understanding to hymn and glorify your saving Ascension.


O Christ, Giver of life, lover of humankind, you went up to the Father and exalted our race in your ineffable compassion.

The ranks of Angels, as they saw your mortal nature going up with you, O Saviour, were astounded and without ceasing sang your praise.

The choirs of Angels were amazed, O Christ, as they saw you being taken up with your body, and they sang the praise of your holy Ascension.

Human nature, which had fallen by corruption, you raised up, O Christ, and by your ascension you exalted and glorified us with yourself.


Intercede unceasingly, pure Lady, with him who came forth from your womb, that those who praise you as Mother of God may be delivered from the deceit of the devil.

Ode 4. Irmos.

I have heard, Lord, the report of the might of your Cross, how Paradise was opened through it, and I cried out: Glory to your power, O Lord.


You were taken up in glory, King of the Angels, to send us the Comforter from the Father. And so we cry out: Glory, O Christ, to your Ascension.

As the Savior had ascended to the Father with his flesh, the hosts of Angels were struck with amazement, and cried out: Glory, O Christ, to your Ascension.

The angelic Powers cried out to those above: Lift up the gates for Christ, our King; whose praise we sing, together with the Father and the Spirit.


The Virgin gave birth, and did not know a mother’s pangs; but Mother she is, while Virgin she remained. Singing her praise we cry: Rejoice, Mother of God.

Ode 5. Irmos.

Rising at dawn, we cry to you, O Lord: Save us; for you are our God; we know no other but you.


When you had filled the universe with gladness, merciful Lord, you took your place with your flesh among the powers on high.

The angelic powers, as they saw you being lifted up, cried out: Lift up the gates for our King!

The Apostles, as the saw the Savior being raised up, cried out with fear: Glory to you, our King!


Mother of God, we praise you as Virgin after childbirth; for you bore for the world God the Word in flesh.

Ode 6. Irmos.

The deep closed round me, the whale became my burial; but I cried out to you, Lover of mankind, and your right hand saved me, O Lord.


On seeing the Creator lifted up on high today, the Apostles leaped for joy in hope of the Spirit, and in fear they cried: Glory to your ascent.

The Angels came and cried out, O Christ, to your Disciples: In the way that you have seen Christ going up, he will come in the flesh as just Judge of all.

As the heavenly powers saw you, our Savior, lifted up to the heights with your body, they cried out, saying: Great, Master, is your love for humankind.


As the Bush unburned, mountain, living ladder and heavenly gate, fittingly we glorify you, glorious Mary, boast of the Orthodox.

Ode 7. Irmos

You saved the Youths who hymned you in the furnace of fire; blessed are you, the God of our fathers.


You were taken up on a cloud of light and saved the world; blessed are you the God of our fathers.

Lifting up on your shoulders the nature which had been led astray, O Christ, you were taken up and brought it to God the Father.

You ascended in the flesh to the bodiless Father; blessed are you the God of our fathers.

Lifting up our nature which had been slain by sin, O Saviour, you brought it to your own Father.


You were born from a Virgin, whom you made Mother of God; blessed are you the God of our fathers.

Ode 8. Irmos

The Son and God, begotten of the Father before the ages, and incarnate in the last times of a Virgin Mother, you priests praise, people highly exalt to all the ages.


Christ, the giver of life, who rose in his two natures with glory to heaven and is now seated with the Father, you priests praise, you people highly exalt to all the ages.

Savior, who redeemed creation from the slavery of idols and set it free before your own Father, we praise you and highly exalt you to all the ages.

The One who by his descent threw down the opponent and by his ascent exalted humankind, you priests praise, you people highly exalt to all the ages.


You were revealed, pure Mother of God, as higher than the Cherubim, for you carried in your womb the One who rides upon them; whom with the bodiless powers we mortals glorify to all the ages.

Ode 9. Irmos

As Mother of God, who beyond understanding and reason ineffably bore in time the timeless, we faithful magnify you with one accord.


As they watched you, the redeemer of the world, Christ God, being divinely exalted, the Apostles leapt for joy and magnified you with awe.

As the Angels saw your flesh now made divine, O Christ, in the height, they signaled to one another: Truly this is our God.

As the ranks of bodiless powers, Christ God, saw you being raised on clouds, they cried: For the King of glory lift up the gates.

As the One who descended into the lowest part of the earth and saved mankind, and raised it up by your ascension, we magnify you.


Rejoice, Theotokos, Mother of Christ God; as today you saw him whom you bore flying up from earth, with Angels you magnified him.