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.)

Easter Saturday: Christ holds all things together

Easter Sunday kicks off a week in the liturgical calendar known as the Easter Octave and a seven-week festival called Eastertide. Stay tuned for a variety of celebratory posts here on the blog!

    Outreach of the New Covenant  by Shin Young-Hun ( source )

 

Outreach of the New Covenant by Shin Young-Hun (source)

 

The Christ Hymn

Everything holds together, everything,
From stars that pierce the dark like living sparks,
To secret seeds that open every spring,
From spanning galaxies to spinning quarks,
Everything holds together and coheres,
Unfolding from the center whence it came.
And now that hidden heart of things appears,
The first-born of creation takes a name.

And shall I see the one through whom I am?
Shall I behold the one for whom I’m made,
The light in light, the flame within the flame,
Eikon tou theou, image of my God?
He comes, a little child, to bless my sight,
That I might come to him for life and light.

In whom all things hold together

And when we had invented death,
had severed every soul from life
we made of these our bodies sepulchers.
And as we wandered dying, dim
among the dying multitudes,
He acquiesced to be interred in us.
And when He had descended thus
into our persons and the grave
He broke the limits, opening the grip,
He shaped of every sepulcher a womb.

In whom all things hold together

And this is he
Who takes all that he is
And bestows it freely
Gives meekly
Takes infinite power and bows the knee
Have you ever seen God on the ground?
Palms pressed to the floor
Sweat dripping on the dirt
The cut and stretch of being human
A sacred shelter of presence
Fullness of He, creator of kingdoms and galaxies,
principalities
And every moment crafted through time, the divine,
Placed wholly in human flesh,
The infinite squashed down into finite,
Like fitting ten thousand angels on the top of a pin
Like the entire ocean is poured into a pool
Like the wine is running over
Like it’s bursting at the seams
The Christ
He is bursting at the seams

In whom all things hold together

Anticipating long stretches of nothingness
we plunge south into California on I-5,
prepared to be bored, uninterested in the view,
and a bit worried that we too may

commit monotony. But then, over us, clouds
contribute their lenticular magnitude to
the two-dimensional—carved by winds into
stream-lined eagles or space craft or B-52s.

I take sky photos through the windshield,
admitting that in spite of anonymity, there is never
nothing. Required to obey gravity,
we occupy open space with substance,

all of us on the skin of the planet created
to lift against the earth’s pull, yet sustained entirely.
We live out our singularity along with olive and
almond trees, oleanders, tarmac, huge trucks,

until size becomes irrelevant: smoke blue coastal range,
stem of dry grass, brittle eucalyptus leaf,
pebble ground into the ground—each bears love’s print,
is held particular within the universe.

Even the small, soft moth on the window of
the rest area’s dingy washroom, unaware of our scrutiny,
its russet wings traced with intricacies of gray,
owns an intrinsic excellence.

In whom all things hold together
THE CHRIST HYMN, music and chorus by Alana Levandoski, poetry by Malcolm Guite, Scott Cairns, Joel McKerrow, Luci Shaw

Listen to The Christ Hymn by Alana Levandoski: SpotifyYouTube

Artist's statement from the Behold, I Make All Things New album liner notes:

"When I initially discovered that the first chapter of Colossians contains an early hymn, my imagination was sparked with wanting to make a work of art about it. In the end, to do this better justice, I enlisted four great poets of our time to dance with this hymn. I asked Malcolm Guite, Scott Cairns, Joel McKerrow and Luci Shaw to contribute a recitation to this composition. While I gave them each a line from the hymn, they also spent time with the hymn in its entirety.

These are the lines:

To Malcolm, I gave — He is the image of the unseen God, the firstborn of all creation.

To Scott, I gave — He is the firstborn from the dead.

To Joel, I gave — God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him.

To Luci, I gave — Every creature in heaven and earth

Get full album: www.alanalevandoski.com


(Read Eastertide posts from previous years here.)

Easter Friday: Shout for joy

Easter Sunday kicks off a week in the liturgical calendar known as the Easter Octave and a seven-week festival called Eastertide. Stay tuned for a variety of celebratory posts here on the blog!

    Easter Morning  or  Easter Mystery  by Maurice Denis ( source )

 

Easter Morning or Easter Mystery by Maurice Denis (source)

 

Shout for Joy

All we can do, in this deep summer hour
With the rain, the taxis and the flowers
Walking between the dear ones holding on
Is shout, shout for joy

Everything that has been broken you’ll mend
Throughout the morning of one day
Sleeves fluttering in the air, in the air
And we’ll shout, shout for joy

I said so little
I could not think of replies
The words all flew away
Up away from me, up into the trees
Where they shout, shout for joy
Shout for Joy by The Innocence Mission

 

Listen to Shout for Joy by The Innocence Mission: SpotifyYouTube


(Read Eastertide posts from previous years here.)

Easter Thursday: Morning has broken

Easter Sunday kicks off a week in the liturgical calendar known as the Easter Octave and a seven-week festival called Eastertide. Stay tuned for a variety of celebratory posts here on the blog!

    Calm Morning  by Fairfield Porter ( source )

 

Calm Morning by Fairfield Porter (source)

 

Morning has broken

"Morning has broken, like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for them springing fresh from the word.
Sweet, the rain’s new fall, sunlit from Heaven
Like the first dew fall, on the first grass
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden
Sprung in completeness where His feet passed.
Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning
Born of the one light, Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise every morning
God's recreation of the new day."

-- Morning Has Broken by The Chieftains featuring Diana Krall & Art Garfunkel

Listen to Morning Has Broken, by The Chieftains, featuring Art Garfunkel and Diana Krall: SpotifyYouTube


(Read Eastertide posts from previous years here.)

Easter Wednesday: I'll Rise

Easter Sunday kicks off a week in the liturgical calendar known as the Easter Octave and a seven-week festival called Eastertide. Stay tuned for a variety of celebratory posts here on the blog!

    The Dreamer  by Steve Prince ( source )

 

The Dreamer by Steve Prince (source)

I'll Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter twisted lies
You may trod me down in the very dirt
And still like the dust I’ll rise

Does my happiness upset you
Why are you best with gloom
Cause I laugh like I’ve got an oil well
Pumpin’ in my living room

So you may shoot me with your words
You may cut me with your eyes
And I’ll rise
I’ll rise
I’ll rise

Out of the shacks of history’s shame
Up from a past rooted in pain
I’ll rise
I’ll rise
I’ll rise

Now did you want to see me broken
Bowed head and lowered eyes
Shoulders fallen down like tear drops
Weakened by my soulful cries

Does my confidence upset you
Don’t you take it awful hard
Cause I walk like I’ve got a diamond mine
Breakin up in my front yard

So you may shoot me with your words
You may cut me with your eyes
And I’ll rise
I’ll rise
I’ll rise

Out of the shacks of history’s shame
Up from a past rooted in pain
I’ll rise
I’ll rise
I’ll rise

So you may write me down in history
With your bitter twisted lies
You may trod me down in the very dirt
And still like the dust I’ll rise

Does my happiness upset you
Why are you best with gloom
Cause I laugh like I’ve got a goldmine
Diggin’ up in my living room

Now you may shoot me with your words
You may cut me with your eyes
And I’ll rise
I’ll rise
I’ll rise

Out of the shacks of history’s shame
Up from a past rooted in pain
I’ll rise
I’ll rise
I’ll rise
I'll Rise, written by Maya Angelou & sung by Ben Harper

Listen to I'll Rise, written by Maya Angelou ("Still I'll Rise") and sung by Ben Harper: SpotifyYouTube


(Read Eastertide posts from previous years here.)