Thursday, May 9, 2013

What does the Ascension of the Lord mean for me, today?

What does the Ascension of the Lord mean for me, today?

As I ponder this question on a warm, stormy afternoon in Oklahoma, I am struck by awe, mystery, and wonder.

I wonder if this was one of those clear days, like the ones we have in central Oklahoma with endless blue skies where you can see forever across a Midwest prairie?  Or was it more like today, a sky full of imminent, powerful clouds threatening to open up at any moment?

I can only image the score of emotions those disciples must have felt—first hearing Jesus’ final words, then watching their Master rise up towards heaven! Awe. Inspiration. Shock. Excitement. Panic. Confusion. Anxiety. Anticipation. Enthusiasm. Eagerness.  Distress. What about just plain fear?

And what profound Mystery! But not in the way that theologians use the word mystery, as a scapegoat to encompass all that we cannot understand, and perhaps shouldn’t even question.

No, this is a scene of Mystery drawn from that sacramental fusion of the quotidian and the sacred—like holy water, or bread becoming the Body of Christ.

What the Apostles witnessed was a mystical incarnation--the living Mystery of the Trinity. Our Master, Jesus the Christ, returning to his Father in order for the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, to come and remain with us forever. Or as Jesus said, in order for the Spirit to “teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you” (John 14:26).

What my mind can not explain in words, my heart grips in hopeful promise.
“And now I have told you this before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe” (John 14:29).

Pietro Perugino, 1495-1498

Giotto, c.1305

"[Y]ou will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you,and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem,throughout Judea and Samaria,and to the ends of the earth.”When he had said this, as they were looking on,he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going,suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them.They said, “Men of Galilee,why are you standing there looking at the sky?This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heavenwill return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.” 
~from Acts 1:1-11