A few thoughts on The Feast of the Ascension
Also called ‘Holy Thursday’ the Ascension of Jesus Christ always falls forty days after Easter Day. St. Augustine claimed it was first celebrated by the Disciples or very early Christians and he considered the Feast of the Ascension to be an important and under-appreciated Christian Holy Day. Consider these words from an Ascension Day Sermon he preached, “My brothers and sisters, anxiety makes me ask myself why the great solemnity we’re celebrating today doesn’t draw a greater number of the faithful, and why this happy day fails to make Christians thrill with joy. Why isn’t it a day of feasting and fellowship like Christmas? Christmas gave Jesus Christ our Savior to earth; the Ascension restored him to heaven.”
Personally, I appreciate Thomas Merton’s statement about the Ascension, “This is the grace of Ascension Day: to be taken up into the heaven of our own souls, the point of immediate contact with God.” Heaven is where God is present. He is present within each of us, closer to us than any human being. So when we are looking for God, there is no need to look up into the sky, as we often do, but rather to turn our glance inward.
Merton’s reflection casts a different light on Jesus’ words from John’s Gospel, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
And finally, Salvador Dali’s Ascension which picks up St. Paul’s theme from Colossians 3:11 “Christ is all and in all”. Dali said that his inspiration for The Ascension of Christ came from a vivid dream in which he saw Christ rising into the nucleus of an atom, as we see in the background of this painting. Again from Colossians 1:27b: “and this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory.”
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me. -St. Patrick’s Breastplate