Thursday, May 17, 2012

Feast of the Ascension of the Lord

     "Parting is such sweet sorrow" Shakespeare has Juliet say to Romeo in a completely different context.  Yet that could be the sentiment of Jesus toward his friends as he ascended to the Father, and their attitude as they began to understand what had happened.  There was sorrow and pain in that parting and change, in the loss of their friend, of the comfortable and the awesome peace that filled their lives, but there was also a sweet joy.  He had told them that he must return to the Father in order to prepare a place for them.  But they had trouble understanding why and accepting the reality of "losing him again".  They wanted that security and peace that he brought them by being in their midst.  They did not want a promise.  They did not want an understanding of theology, of God's plan for the future.  They wanted the here and now reality of his touch, his healing power, his teaching, his gentle care and his concern for their frail lives.

     Preface I of the Ascension of the Lord says it wonderfully:

"Mediator between God and man,
judge of the world and Lord of hosts,
he ascended, not to distance himself from our lowly state
but that we, his members, might be confident of following
where he, our Head and Founder, has gone before."

     Remember that he said to them that he was going to the Father, his Father and our Father; that he was going to prepare a place for us; that where he was we may follow; and that he would show us the way.  He promised the Holy Spirit to accomplish this reality.  He told them to pray, to wait, to be expectant.  There may be separation anxiety now but there will be sweet joy in the time of fulfillment.

     Many of us came from immigrant families looking for a better life, for a future touched by hope.  Often a brave one came to the new world ahead of the family to earn money in order to bring the others over, to establish a home for their loved ones to settle in.   Their departure was filled with sorrow, but also filled with hope.  On this Feast of the Ascension let us remember the Collect that says "where the Head has gone before in glory, the Body is called to follow in hope."

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