Ascension Thursday, slow to write because I was gazing at the sky and also spending some time reading up on this feast day. Do I mind staring at the sky pondering my God? No, I don’t think so. I am comfortable gazing at a God in the sky because I know that same God came down from that throne to walk the same place as me. The ascension is after all the conclusion of the mission that began at the nativity, and that mission was my redemption and salvation. The Son of man that went up on a cloud is the Son of God that cared for me. The feast of the ascension is full of details, for one it occurs forty days after the resurrection. Forty days are the number of years the Hebrew’s journeyed across the desert, they are the number of days Jesus spent in the desert. Forty days are a journey much like the one that I am on. In the gospel accounts Jesus ascends and disappears from view behind a cloud, a symbol of holiness that many artists accentuate. The icon of the ascension is a very ancient one. In this days Icon, Jesus ascends much in the way he promises to return.
The ancient icon represents the apostles in a state of confusion and bewilderment, in the center of them are the two angels that ask them the question
“Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11)
In the center of that Icon is Mary staring straight at us, in her there is no confusion as she understands her Son. Her and those disciples are the representation of Jesus Church, she is its image and they are its foundation. The Icon is divided into two parts, heaven and earth. Jesus has dominion over both. In that question the angels ask the disciples “why do you stand gazing up into heaven” is the not too subtle reminder that they have much work to do here on earth, and that work they are to begin is the same that we continue today.
I could have added also that this feast adds a little bewilderment to me since the only Christ I have ever known has been the Easter Christ, and a good part of my thought was spent on wondering what it was like for those first Apostles to watch their Lord ascend into heaven and disappear from their sight. They are the foundation of my Church and this event does highlight the turbulence they experienced in those early days. Their struggles are what Acts of the Apostles describes, and that book still serves to guide Easter Christians today. This feast points to Pentecost and the receiving of the Holy Spirit, the same spirit that guided the early Church that laid the foundation for me.