I believe …I think Ascension Day brings completion to our meditation on the Paschal Mystery. This is the work of spiritual formation. It is the stuff of discipline that brings us to transformation. With Christ we were crucified, died and were buried. We have died to ourselves and have new meaning brought to our every little death. We also enter into the Paschal Mystery when with Christ we can safely descend into the hell of our past pain and traumas. I remember reading Parker Palmer talk about the mystery of depression. He quoted Annie Dillard saying we are invited to ride the monsters all the way down off the rim of the world to find God. Then the Paschal Mystery invites us to look up.
was crucified, died and was buried;
he descended into hell;
on the third day he rose again from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty;
from there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I love to gaze at the sky. I love a clear blue day with a few high cumulus clouds. They give me a sense of how high is the sky. I realize that I am looking through literally miles of air. There is a height to the sky. I was telling a group of kids in chapel this yesterday and a girl interrupted me laughing and said, “You’re wearing green slippers.”
“No,” I said, “They’re shoes.” Imagine thinking my immensely cool Toms were slippers!
I went on to tell them about how I love to look up at night at the stars. I mean, if you think you get a sense of distance from the clouds, imagine how far you are seeing when you look at the galaxies! And to think that is where Jesus went. I mean where do we always think of heaven as being?
Again the girl laughs at my slippers. “But we’re supposed to be looking up not down at my slippers (I mean shoes),” I quipped. Then I remembered what Dallas Willard said about the Jewish conception of the heavens. “So why did Jesus go into the heavens?” I asked. “So that he could send us the Spirit and show us that he would always be near us, because the heavens start way up at the stars and galaxies and come right down under my green slippers.”
Ascension takes the Paschal Mystery and leaves us looking up. We learn to let go and yet live in a spirit of expectation. “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11b NIV). In about 10 days we get a glimpse of that Paschal reality as our guarantee, the Holy Spirit, is shed abroad in our hearts.