Easter 2023: 7th Week Ascension Sunday
Gospel Reading: Luke 24:44–53 (World English Bible)
44Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” 45Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things. 49And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” 50Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. 51While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. 52And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; 53and they were continually in the temple blessing God.
Reflection/Discussion: Doors of Light by David Morrison
The ascension of Jesus is a paradox. When taken as merely a literal event or as a “fundamental” for faith, its meaningfulness bleeds out quickly and it shrivels into a farce. However, when perceived with contemplative eyes, it becomes a living reality that expands with possibility. In disappearing from the early disciple’s sight, he now is seen in everything and everyone through eyes activated by faith. In the ascension, humanity rises into divinity. When experienced in a personal way, the heart ascends into the mind. It is a preparation for the coming of the Holy Spirit on what is called Pentecost in the book of Acts. With Pentecost, the divine descends on the human. On a personal level, the mind descends into the heart.
The ascension is the continuation of Jesus’ life and work in the community of faith. He began his first “ascent” from Bethany up to Jerusalem. Now, after the events of his crucifixion and resurrection, he “led them out as far at Bethany”—the origin point of his mission. After he was “carried up,” they repeat the trek back to Jerusalem as an outward sign that the inner experience of his crucifixion and resurrection are being renewed and reproduced in the diversity of their lives and beyond. The ascension can be seen as an increase and continuation of the experience of God’s presence. Jesus’ earthly life embodied divine love and wisdom, and his ascension signifies the integration of these qualities into the collective consciousness of humanity. From a mystical standpoint, the ascension invites us to embrace a deeper seeing and awaken to our own divinization.
It seems to me there are a multitude of vastly diverse awakenings to the presence of Christ within us, in others, and in the heart of all creation. They tend to happen without our willfulness commanding them. They seem to happen in the liminal times and transitional places in our lives. It’s probably the common human experience to become so attached and focused on the lives we’ve planned—on our departures and arrivals, and the goals we’re trying to achieve that we miss the life that actually is happening between the curtains of reality’s fabric. The grace and experience of the ascension is to pause and receptively take notice of the present moment. In his ascension Jesus steps through an opening of light beyond space and time. We can experience this by taking a contemplative stance in our interior deserts. I’ll leave you with a haiku, because…of course:
In the unfolding
Between the sand, stone, and sky
Doors of light open
At the end of the Easter Season by David Morrison
Awaken us in your Presence.
And may Christ dwell within us:
To make us carriers who cultivate
A peace that lives and moves
From the center of a justice that is true: