Ascension Day [Eastertide 2018]

Tomorrow, May 10, is Ascension Day, ten days before Pentecost!

Thou hast raised our human nature
On the clouds to God’s right hand:
There we sit in heavenly places,
There with thee in glory stand.
Jesus reigns, adored by angels;
Man with God is on the throne;
Mighty Lord, in thine ascension,
We by faith behold our own.
See, the Conqueror Mounts in Triumph (hymn) by Christopher Wordsworth

As I grow deeper in my understanding of the life of Christ and am shaped year after year by the liturgical calendar, I've become especially fond of Ascension Day. It's not so much that I look forward to particular traditions as we have for so many other holy days -- although my husband has instituted a Eucharistic compline service for Church of the Apostles this year -- but in the actual fact that Christ is ascended to the Father that's deepened me. Once again, as we've seen from the moment of conception to birth to baptism to crucifixion and resurrection, Christ's human life seamlessly integrates both divine and human realties. Through Christ, we are invited into the same earthy transcendence. This truth is as miraculous and ordinary as the bottom of Jesus' feet being lifted into a cloudy glory. Like the disciples, we're given glimpses while we wait to see this truth in its eternal entirety, and Ascension Day is a beautiful day to repeat our hallelujahs!

We celebrate the reality of Christ's ascension by spoken creed, yet I've only been vaguely aware of its theological significance for most of my life. I'm still just learning, and, typically, am aided most deeply through the body of artistic reflection accumulated throughout the history of Christianity. (For examples, you can see previous years' meditations here.) I hope this collection will be meaningful for you, as well.

For more reflection, here are three brief, but meaningful, posts on the meaning of ascension:

Ascension Day and the Real Absence of Christ by Fr. Greg Goebel at Anglican Pastor

Ascension Day: Christ Our King and Brother by at The Homely Hours

Reflections on the Feast of the Ascension by Damian Howard SJ at Thinking Faith

  Mysteries of the Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension of Christ  (detail) 1569 by Antonio Campi ( source )

Mysteries of the Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension of Christ (detail) 1569 by Antonio Campi (source)

 

A Sonnet for Ascension Day

We saw his light break through the cloud of glory
Whilst we were rooted still in time and place
As earth became a part of Heaven’s story
And heaven opened to his human face.
We saw him go and yet we were not parted
He took us with him to the heart of things
The heart that broke for all the broken-hearted
Is whole and Heaven-centred now, and sings,
Sings in the strength that rises out of weakness,
Sings through the clouds that veil him from our sight,
Whilst we our selves become his clouds of witness
And sing the waning darkness into light,
His light in us, and ours in him concealed,
Which all creation waits to see revealed .
— Malcolm Guite, Sounding the Seasons: Poetry for the Christian Year

Today's readings: Acts 1:1-11, Psalm 47, Ephesians 1:15-23, Luke 24:44-53

Listen to my Ascension playlist on Spotify: Ascension

The Collect for Ascension Day:

Almighty God, whose blessed Son our Savior Jesus Christ ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things: Mercifully give us faith to perceive that, according to his promise, he abides with his Church on earth, even to the end of the ages; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
— Book of Common Prayer

(See all Ascension Day posts from previous years here.)