Saturday, June 4, 2011


Yes, Ascensiontide.

From Easter Day until the Feast of the Ascension 40 days later, the season is known as Eastertide. Two days ago, Thursday, was the Feast of the Ascension. So now instead of Eastertide, the remaining ten days until the Feast of Pentecost is called Ascensiontide, a season presided over by the ascension of Jesus into heaven to sit eternally at the right hand of God the Father.

Depictions of the Ascension can be a little silly - from Jesus piously looking up into heaven hovering a little above the ground, with the disciples huddled below on the hilltop, to depictions in which all we see of the Savior are his feet dangling from a cloud, soon, too, to disappear from sight.

And yet...

...the preferred collect, or prayer collecting our hopes and thoughts, for the Ascension reads, "Almighty God, whose blessed Son our Savior Jesus Christ ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things: Mercifully give us faith to perceive that, according to his promise, he abides with his Church on earth, even to the end of the ages;...Amen."

The emphasis on "that he might fill all things" is mine. This is because when Bishop Laura Ahrens read that collect on Thursday noon in worship, I suddenly heard those words for the first time: Jesus "ascended far above the heavens that...he might fill all things". Aha! At last, at 26 days short of yet another birthday (well over 60!) I get the Ascension.

Yes, in Jesus's day people's understanding of the universe was that one could ascend into the sky and disappear, to come out in a stable place with land and thrones and throngs of angels and such. We have been up there. We know that is (most likely) not true. So why do we continue this farce of "the ascension"?

On Thursday noon I got it: whatever happened to the disciples after the crucifixion, that lead to an empty tomb and a belief in the bodily resurrection accompanied by bodily post-death experiences of Jesus present with them in the flesh, at some point Jesus did cease to be with them - he ascended. He returned to The Father. But not without promising to send a "comforter" - a strengthener, one to strengthen them in the time to come. When Bp. Laura read that collect, I suddenly saw Jesus, as the disciples realized he was no longer with them fixed in time and space, filling the entire universe, the world, the sky, the universe, all things.

So it is the "sitting at the right hand of God" that is fanciful. The right hand of God is anyplace Jesus is, and Jesus is in every atom and molecule and breath and depth of the entire universe. He is now present for and in all things.

Now, I'm sure I have been told that, and I have thought that, but on Thursday was the first time I knew that, in fact, I saw it. In a flash, I saw Jesus fillling all things.

And then it was gone. But not forgotten.

In ten days we will celebrate Pentecost, a Jewish festival during which, according to St. Luke in the book of The Acts of the Apostles, the Holy Spirit of Jesus was sent as a great wind among the disciples, men and women alike, and descended on them as tongues of fire, filling them with the spirit of Jesus. Filling all things. Seen and yet unseen.

"Mercifully give us faith to perceive that, according to his promise, Jesus abides with his Church on earth, even to the end of the ages..." Not only his Church on earth, but with all things at all times and in all places, on earth and throughout the universe, for all time. Amen.

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