Thursday, May 21, 2020

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

The Ascension of Christ
Salvador Dali, 1958
Traditionally this is called Ascension Thursday and tradition puts it here in the liturgical calendar because Pentecost Sunday is nine days later. The U.S. Bishops often move this solemnity to the following Sunday for the convenience of the congregation.

I like to mention it on the traditional Thursday because those nine days between the Ascension and Pentecost are what lead to the word novena (derived from Latin for nine) which follows the disciples and Mary praying for nine days in the Upper Room. The first two chapters of the Acts of the Apostles talks about this.

Anyway, overall 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 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.


  1. About moving the day-- many places do not have a lot of churches, and enough priests... I know a priest (eastern NC) who, on a Saturday/Sunday, says Mass @ 4-5 different churches, a circle tour of 100 miles+... So, we pray for more vocations, and are glad we have access to the sacraments.

  2. Thanks for your inspiring comments. As an FYI - Eastern Rite Catholic Churches still celebrate the Ascension today!

    1. So glad you liked it! And some Roman Rite churches also celebrate it today. Just depends on the diocese. :-)