When I became a Christian in my twenties, the Ascension was one of the hardest parts of the Bible for me to grasp. I found it easier to believe in the reversal of death through resurrection than the reversal of gravity through ascension. I had been raised on the scientific method, rocket ships to the moon and the image of the Earth from space. And now I was supposed to believe… what?
I’m in my forties now, so I’ve been hearing this story for twenty years. Every year it makes more sense to me. The cosmology of Holy Scripture assumes that heaven, the dwelling place of God, is above earth, the dwelling place of humanity. So of course Jesus ascended bodily into heaven. In the world of the Bible, that was the only logical place for him to ultimately reside: with God the Father, his Creator and ours.
This image of the Ascension, the detail of a manuscript drawn a thousand years ago, offers even more to the story. In many images of Ascension, Jesus arises from Earth with no accompaniment. He is on his own – at least, he is as alone as the second person of the Trinity ever could be. But in this depiction, God the Father reaches out to clasp him by the hand and draw him back home.
I see my own story in that outstretched hand. I don’t want my own children to suffer through their trials on earth. If I can’t keep them safe at home (and I can’t) I surely want to be united with them at journey’s end. I want to reach out my hand and draw them back home.
If the Bible teaches nothing else, it teaches that the love of God is a more powerful force than either death or gravity. By my baptism I am included in that love: the mutual life-giving love of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. My love for my children is a small thing compared to the love of God.
Now that I celebrate Ascension, I find myself at home not only in twenty-first century cosmology but also the cosmology of Scripture. As I grow as a disciple, I continue to discover myself at home in God.
Ascension at Home
How can you celebrate the Ascension at home? This post from Grow Christians author Jerusalem Greer on Building Faith has some excellent ideas.
A Prayer for Today
Grant, we pray, Almighty God, that as we believe your only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended into heaven, so we may also in heart and mind there ascend, and with him continually dwell; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
[Image credit: Sacramentaire de Drogon, 845-855 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons]
How do you celebrate the Ascension?