Today is the Feast of the Ascension, also called Ascension Day.
It always falls on the Thursday of the 6th week of the Easter season, 10 days before Pentecost Sunday. Like Easter it is a move-able feast which is one reason why it is so often forgotten and lacks the commercial reminders that alert people to the date of Easter Sunday. And there are no associations with chocolate for Ascension Day.
Ascension Day marks the last of the resurrection appearances of Jesus to his disciples. So it could be seen as an ending. But as with most endings it also marks a beginning.
Ascension Day celebrates not the absence of Jesus but his presence, no longer confined to time, space or a particular locality of ancient Palestine. Jesus is present and potentially available by his Holy Spirit to all people everywhere.
My favourite Ascension account is the end of Luke's gospel:
"Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. while he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God." Luke 24: 50-53
I like this because it doesn't sound like an end, more like a beginning - as indeed it was. It also reminds me that it was no use for Jesus' friends to hang around looking up to heaven in the hopes of continuing to see him. They would find him, but in a different way. They would find him especially through prayer and worship together. And it would be as they continued in prayer together that they would become filled with the power to be effective witnesses to Jesus' death and resurrection and continue to proclaim the good news of God's kingdom.
Reflection for Ascension Day
Christ of two worlds,
earth and heaven,
now and not yet,
not here and now here.
Christ of two dimensions,
exalted and embracing,
yet present here.
Christ of cross and resurrection,
arms stretched out
to bear our pain
and lifted up to bless.
Christ risen and ascended,
above us and amongst us
leaving and returning
carry us and bless us.
Image Credit: Commons Wikimedia, CC License