For many Christians, the Feast of the Ascension is celebrated on Sunday. This is so that as many people as possible can meet their obligation for this important Feast. Is this just a little too convenient? Or perhaps it’s inconvenient for Our Lord not to have ascended on a Sunday?
Before we start getting bogged down in discussing whether we ought to be focussing on fitting our lives around God’s timing rather than fitting Him into our lives, it’s worth remembering that often what is inconvenient for us is actually the way forward.
The Ascension of the Lord, as we always seem to reflect at this time, is more than an inconvenience as we apparently lose clear, direct guidance on all kinds of issues which we might have received had He stayed. We would know for sure the answers to what is truly right and wrong, how the Church should react to the World, and how the World would be best ministered. Yet, is this really how He would want to be present with us? If He had wanted to remain as the arbiter of Right and Wrong in perpetuity, He would have done so. Clearly, infallible arbitration between Right and Wrong is not the mission of the Church. Clearly, God wants us to think for ourselves and not lose our humanity to becoming little more than passive attendants to a totalitarian king, as He would inevitably and unwillingly become.
We should therefore apply the principle that the inconvenience is the way forward. In ascending, what has Our Lord done for us that is better than just staying with us? Surely He could have sent the Holy Ghost AND stayed?
The Resurrection is necessary so that everyone might know that Death is not the end, that it is possible for us not to die in our sins, but Death is become rather the gateway to what is better. If Death is the gateway, then what is the Ascension?
In Handel’s Messiah, the alto sings, “thou art gone up on high, thou hast led captivity captive.” In harrowing Hell, the Lord leads the souls of those who predeceased Him to the throne of God. In ascending, Our Lord takes something with Him into Heaven. Something vital. In ascending, human beings witness the union of things Earthly with things Heavenly. Our Lord bursts through the veil yet again with the intention of drawing our reality through into God’s Eternity. Our Lord becomes the needle weaving together humanity and divinity even as He Himself is both human and divine. Just as His death pulls our sins down to Hell where they belong, so His ascension pulls our humanity into the realms where no human being can really comprehend.
Who among us can fully understand the timelessness of Eternity? Yet, the Ascension tells us that this is where we are bound. Who among us can understand how the physical body of Our Lord is no longer apparent in our physics? Yet the Ascension assures us not only that Our Lord is present in the elements of the Mass, but that we, too, will have that strange physics.
The Ascension provides us with this strange fusion. It clears the dark glass for us so that we can glimpse better the hidden realities of God.
The inconvenience of the Ascension reminds us that the pure in heart will see God. How might we cleanse our way? Even by ruling ourselves after His Word. We need to follow this inconvenience through what is difficult to know, understand, and experience and allow ourselves to be drawn where our efforts necessarily fail us. We can only see so far before the Lord disappears from view. It is He who will ensure that we find the rest of the way. In the meantime, we are to rejoice in our humanity that He loves and to tend it with the dignity and devotion that He would want it to receive. That way, we the Church, can draw the World after Him.