Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Preparing for, understanding, appreciating, and celebrating Ascension Day, May 25

This Thursday, the fortieth day after the Resurrection of Jesus, will be Ascension Day, or as I grew up know it, “The Feast of the Ascension.” As the name of the day indicates, it commemorates the ascension of Christ into heaven and his completion of the work of our redemption. This fortieth-day after the resurrection celebrates the entry of Christ into heaven with our human nature glorified, and the pledge of our glorification with Him. In our Christian history, processions outside the church were held on this day to imitate Christ's leading the Apostles out of the city to the Mount of Olives, and to commemorate the entry of Christ into heaven.

As the painting by Solomon RAJ, India presents it, there is something wonderfully primitive in the story-telling about the ascension of our Lord. As a boy, I was always somewhat mystified by the Gospel story of Jesus' going up to heaven. I pictured him as a sort of Superman (or Mary Poppins bouyed up by the wind under her black umbrella at the end of the movie) who could fly up, up, and away. And, quite frankly, I'm still not quite sure how to imagine Our Lord's entrance into glory, his return to the full Presence of the Father, his transition to the realm of the Spirit as our resurrected Lord. At any rate, I always looked forward to our annual celebration of the Christ's ascension, mostly because His "leaving" paradoxically meant his "coming" to everyone--including me-- in the Gospel and sacraments. In the next few days, I'll share with you something of what others in art, music, and words tell us about the ascension of our Lord.

If you want to take a close look at what the Mark and Luke tell us about the Lord Jesus' ascension, turn to Mark 16.19; Luke 24.50-53, and Acts 1.6-11. More tomorrow.

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