Thursday, May 5, 2016

Solemnity of the Ascension of Our Lord: Making Heaven Present Everywhere

From previous years, but revised. Let's face it, this is a work in progress.

The Ascension of Christ
Salvador Dali, 1958

Traditionally this is called Ascension Thursday (because Pentecost Sunday is nine days later) but the many of the U.S. Bishops (and those of other places, I believe) have seen it as good to change the number of days that Christ considered necessary between his rising to Heaven and the Spirit's coming to the apostles in the Upper Room at Pentecost. They moved it to Sunday. It's more convenient that way, don't you know.

I have railed against this in the past and some rail against it now.

However, I am struck by one thing over all others.

Christ's ascension to Heaven signals the beginning of the Holy Spirit's age on Earth. Not a day goes by that I don't call the Holy Spirit to me, asking for wisdom, leaning hard on His peace and calm. I am so grateful for Him in my life.

I don't care when the Ascension happened. I am simply glad that it did.

For one thing I am always left a bit giggly at the image of the dumbstruck followers looking up where Jesus disappeared into the clouds. And the sudden appearance of the two men in white who asked why they were standing there looking at the sky. I imagine everyone was overawed by the events that had just occurred, not to mention the sudden appearance of angels, but I always feel I'd have been the smart-mouth who said, "Maybe this happens every day where you come from, but for us this is something new."

The Ascension of the Lord marks the beginning of something brand new.  I give thanks.

Our priest's homily a few years ago made it clear that I missed a vital point about the ascension. I stand corrected and gladly enlightened.
(paraphrasing like crazy)

Christ's ascent raises humankind as well. Jesus is not only consubstantial with the Father. He is also consubstantial with us. Wholly God. Wholly man.

He killed death so we would not have to fear it any longer. He ascends to Heaven to take us there as well.

Giotto di Bondone, Ascension of Christ, circa 1300.
Jesus seems almost to be breaking out of the top of the picture, but as he does so, he is not so much going away into heaven as making heaven present everywhere.
Jane Williams, Faces of Christ
I love that image. It looks as if Christ is opening a big package and that gift that will come in 9 days is the Holy Spirit.

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