7 (seven)

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Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost; why three separate feasts, and which is the more important? Easter certainly gets the most attention, it is the first celebration after a long somber penitential season. Not that many are somber or penitential prior to Easter, but that’s social commentary. Smirk. Easter is the realization that Jesus has risen. It’s theological, it is a testament of the Apostles. It is what they observed. Realization might not be the proper word simply because it is slanted towards intellect and reason. Easter is not reasoning but fact. The Lord has risen, the Apostles testify to that. Still, I use that word reason. It’s for discussion. A risen Lord is recognized, move on.

The next event in the trilogy is Ascension. If in part one the Apostles recognize Jesus has risen, part two is the recognition that Jesus is LORD. It is a transition from smoldering ember to roaring fire. It becomes somewhat visible in the Easter vigil. If Easter is the lighting of the Pascal Candle, Ascension is every candle ignited. One a thought, the other a proclamation. It is the journey from realizing Jesus has risen, to realizing Jesus is LORD. It is a leap from body to spirit, human to divine. If Easter is festive, Ascension is majestic. But what about part three? This is a trilogy.

Let’s use a common theme. From smoldering ember to roaring fire, but what then? How about something cosmic, something dramatic. Something supernatural. Let’s remember also the mindset of the Apostles. Hell, Earth, Heaven. Hell is the underworld, the world beneath our feet. Earth is where we stand. Heaven is the stars. To them the world is visual, both this life and the next. Jesus ascends to heaven, but is also present here. Mind boggling. A Möbius strip of astronomical proportions. A folding of time and space. The stuff of Physics. Back to the story. From ember to fire, then what? How about meteor or comet propelled towards earth. A heavenly God collides with earth. The Holy Spirit descends, and earth is forever changed. I don’t understand why parts two and three are not celebrated more, they are enormous events.

This space in time is a preparation for that cosmic collision, it is time to prepare for the Holy Spirit. The first reading Acts 1:12-14 tells that the disciples were to go to that upper room and pray. They are given a commandment. Pray for the Holy Spirit. That makes this week, one that does not contain any major feasts so important. Commentary: the importance of this week gets lost when Ascension Thursday gets shifted to the seventh Sunday. The message this week is to pray. In the trilogy the first to events are observations, for the third to occur requires an action. Assemble together and PRAY.

Observation, and Action. Active and contemplative. Prayer contains both. It is call and response. Prayer is asking and listening. Important too that the LORD commanded that they assemble, that their prayers might gain strength. That they might not be extinguished by a hostile world. Interesting to think that at the resurrection each person’s encounter was personal. At the ascension all those that were privileged to that encounter gathered to witness the LORDS ascension. At the third event, they gather to pray in unison with a common desire. From scattered to unified. It continues. Oh, that number seven? It means divine perfection or completion. This is the seventh Sunday of Easter.

P.S. Throughout here I use terms of cosmic, images of astronomical. One set of readings that is part of the season is the book of Revelation. I can’t write that well, but that book describes these events in cosmic and astronomical terms. It is apocalyptic. Today it is common thinking, dogma, catechism. Sometimes simply thought of a Catholic. Catholic, that word comes from universal and sometimes that gets mistaken as one size fits all. Pedestrian, common, universal. Wrong. Think instead of universal as of the universe. Enormous and infinite and wondrous and all encompassing. It is of the stars and of the heavens and galaxies. Much bigger than us. Majestic and wondrous. Just a thought.

rough draft #1

The ups and downs of eternity

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Ok, I get it. An angel falls and a serpent slithers up a tree. Cain versus Abel, and Joseph into slavery, an exile and an exodus. Free will and good versus evil. Challenges and pitfalls. Pitfalls and a very (very) deep pit. Pushed into a cistern, and pushed to hell. A struggle to rise. It is the grand battle, and a grand chaos of a fallen order. I understand a messiah in the simplest of terms. I understand leaders like Moses, like Caesar, like Herod, like a pharaoh; and ultimately like the Son of God. I can understand the messiah of the nativity. I understand the messiah of Easter, and the need for the Apostles to record the resurrection of Christ. I understand they did so to the best of their abilities. I can also understand the Messiahs need to ascend, and the amount of time Jesus spent explaining His return to the Father. Finally I get the Holy Spirit, and how it proceeds from the Father and Son. With that ascent and decent, the serpent is crushed. That is the end game, the conclusion.

Jesus said to his disciples:
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
And I will ask the Father,
and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always,
the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept,
because it neither sees nor knows him.
But you know him, because he remains with you,
and will be in you.
I will not leave you orphans

The feast of the Ascension and Pentecost defuse the other Messiahs. It steals their thunder, it silences their voice. It allows, in the quietness of contemplation, one to hear the truth. It explains why at the resurrection only a few select followers were permitted entry to the vision. To see they first had to seek. They had to die themselves, so that they might rise anew. They had to answer that first call to “follow me.” Follow me was through cavalry, and into the grave. It was to walk with Christ, and to die to the world. It also was to rise again, and to see anew. There was the vision of a risen LORD. It was the journey of their baptism, their death and life.

This is a transition, from Easter to Ascension. It is a transition of a God that needs to rise on earth and be present here. That speaks of an eternal presence, and eternity is nothing easy to understand. It is a presence that is alpha and omega, first and last. Eternal. The transition is also one where the physical transitions to the eternal. That ascension leaves no room for false prophet, it does make that path for spirit. Eternal is not something easy to understand.

Sixth Sunday of Easter
Lectionary: 55

Acts 8:5-8, 14-17

1 Pt 3:15-18

Jn 14:15-21

Ramble a little on the Easter season…

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How shall I approach the conclusion of this years Easter celebrations? I think it will be by reflecting on the whole season. It will be by viewing its conclusion by looking at its beginning. Both ends mirror each others, they are bookends that contain a season. The beginning of the season begins with fire. It begins with the bonfire built outside Church at the vigil Mass. In Pentecost tongues of fire descend on the Apostles. We in the modern era have lost the significance of fire, and we no longer appreciate its beauty. For us it is something obtained by turning a valve or spinning a wheel, or striking a match. Taken for granted, and thoughtless in its creation. Look at that bonfire, and think. How was it ignited, did a parishioner reach for a lighter or strike a match? The proper way, from what I have read, is to begin with flint stone and the dried plant of flax. Laborious, uncertain, and certainly with prayer. The stone is struck until the fiber ignites. Then it is coddled and guarded, and protected until it takes hold.. Does that explain the Acts of the Apostles? Faith the size of a mustard seed grows into the mightiest of trees, Jesus preached that. Let me add one quick side note regarding fire. Here in North America many are familiar with the fire lit outside the church on the Easter vigil. It is the fire that lights the Easter candle, and then every candle every parishioner holds.Significant, in showing Christ as the light of the world, but here in America that is the only reference to fire throughout the season. In parts of Europe though large bonfires are lit throughout the countryside celebrating the risen Lord. The bonfire celebrates Jesus Christ as the light of the world but lets not forget the care in nurturing a spark into a mighty fire.

Bookends, lets look at another event. This is at the tomb after the passion. The women come to the tomb and an Angel says, Women why do you look for Him in a tomb. He is not there. The  beginning of the Easter season, now look ate the end. Look at the Ascension. The angel says to the men, to the men: Why are you looking at the sky, He is not there but has ascended into heaven. The season begins with an apperance of an angel to the women and ends with that angel approaching the men. Coincidence, I think not. I am amused by the medieval depictions of men staring at feet rising into the sky. Funny how Jesus Christ’s descent to earth was first revealed to a woman, revealed to Mary at the Annunciation. On Pentecost Mary and the disciples will be in the upper room to receive the Holy Spirit. Both men and women receive that Spirit, and both have a role in allowing it to grow. Why was it that the women ran to the tomb, and men stared up at the sky? A mystery, faith is full of them.

I will ramble on I promise, but these are a few thoughts I wanted to quick jot down. Now I begin to turn my thoughts to prayer , the prayer at the last supper, at the stoning of Saint Stephen, and those of the Liturgy of the Eucharist. But that ramble is not quite ready…