Salvador Dali. Ascension. 1958.
In the first book, Theophilus, I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught until the day he was taken up, after giving instructions through the holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them by many proofs after he had suffered, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.The solemnity of the Ascension of Our Lord falls on the 40th day of Easter and so happens on a Thursday. It is a Holy Day of Obligation, however, in most dioceses in the United States the bishops have moved it to the following Sunday.
While meeting with them, he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for "the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak; for John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the holy Spirit."
When they had gathered together they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?"
He answered them, "It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority. But you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.
While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them.
They said, "Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven."
Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day's journey away.
So, unless you are in Boston, Hartford, New York, Newark, Philadelphia, and the state of Nebraska, it will be folded in with Sunday worship.
For me, that is like saying that Christmas is going to be folded in with the nearest Sunday because it's handier that way. Nothing takes the "special" out of a celebration like making it "handy."
Therefore, we have a little acknowledgment here on the proper day before being obedient to our bishop and celebrating the Lord's Ascension on Sunday.
Legalities like that aside, I understand why they were looking intently at the sky. Who wouldn't? I also like the angels' prodding. It is easy to let the wonder of something like the ascension overtake us and keep us from acting. We have to somehow manage to balance the wonder with our witness in everyday life.
Not an easy task.
Which is why, perhaps, we settle into reading Acts throughout the Easter season. Not only is it Church history of what happened next, but it is like a manual both of what the early Church taught and of how to put your faith into action.
Nine days after this comes Pentecost.
In preparation, I'll be saying the Novena to the Holy Spirit beginning tomorrow ... and, of course, posting it here.