Ascension Happens! Breaking Reflection News!! Has anyone been tracking 40 days beginning Easter Day, April 12th?! Just as Luke narrates it, Happy Ascension Day dear readers! Geeky Episcopalians call today one of the Red Letter Feasts, because in the earliest English Prayer Books they printed the primary festivals of the Christian year in bold red ink so the clergy would not forget them! Can anyone do this?! Christmas, Holy Name (New Year), Epiphany, Presentation (of Jesus in the Temple by his parents), Easter, Ascension, Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, Transfiguration (go team boo-yah!) and All Saints. All connected to significant events in Jesus’ life of course. The one which always fall on a Thursday, and therefore is almost completely forgotten except for geeky parish clergy? Yep, you guessed it…Ascension!
The ol’ reliable three-tiered biblical cosmos took a wee dent during the Age of Reason and the rise of scientific astronomy. So pre-Einsteinian localized geographies like Up There in Heaven or Down There in Hell are really passé today despite their continued colloquial usage. (Am guessing high schoolers or amorous young adults may not find the traditional “get them out of the house at night” questions so helpful if re-cast in more accurate astrometric terms…”Hey, how about we go out to observe multi-vector antumbral obliquities tonight?! Really ruins the “stargazing”invitation) (Yes, they all really are real. Look ‘em up!) So Jesus went…where? Up, up and away? To the right hand (urgh so dextrally biased!) of God? Back to the Father? So hard to explain so many clergy let this one just quietly pass by.
Our Anglican forebears knew better. Anglicans, as we’ve seen before, bear no burden of unnecessary explanation! Call it a mystery, accept it, put it to organ music and move on for us Anglican or Episcopalian Christians! The reality of Jesus’ Resurrection inevitably surrenders to Ascension. In whatever direction, the Risen Jesus leaves so He (sorry cannot help it) may return at the End of Days. John’s Gospel faces this unified Christian experience squarely and courageously in the eyes. If I do not leave the paraclete cannot come, the one who will explain all things and remind you of what I’ve already told you. Paraclete is the Johannine super-mysterious Greek term for the Holy Spirit. (Mystery, accept, set it to music…you know the drill now!) The Johnannine Jesus says His mission is complete and He returns to His Father. Ascension Happens. For the remainder of Eastertide we await the coming of the Holy Spirit.
There is no specific Prayer Book service for Ascension despite it’s Red Letter status. Odd. So please join me in the Collect for the Feast of the Ascension:
Grant, we pray, Almighty God, that as we believe your only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended into heaven, so we may also in heart and mind there ascend, and with him continually dwell, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.