Today the Church celebrates the Ascension of the LORD. The responsorial psalm for this feast sets the tone for our liturgy: "GOD mounts his throne to shouts of joy; the LORD goes up with trumpet blast." It is one of the great feasts of the LORD - a manifestation of his divinity and a confirmation of his risen glory. We rejoice because we know that his departure means a new, intimate level of relationship with Christ through the gift of his Spirit. This new intimacy is only possible after the LORD goes to the Father.
Now, being 21st century Christians, all this makes sense. We know about the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost and the gifts bestowed in her wake. But, amid all our joy and rejoicing, I can't help thinking about those poor apostles. The forty days spent in the company of the risen LORD must have been so wonderful. To have lost him and to have him back...I can't imagine that joy. But now, to let go of him again, I suspect this mysterious moment left them with mouths open and hearts rent. Taken "out of their sight" and beyond their embrace, the LORD JESUS would return to them in Spirit. In the meantime, I wonder how they made sense of it all.
Surely, their faith had deepened in the days after the resurrection. Maybe, they did what we do when someone we love is taken away. Maybe, they cried together and wondered what heaven was like. Maybe, they prayed and told their favorite stories of their days with the Christ. Maybe, they went to his Mother's house for comfort food and a dose of her great faith. Maybe, exhausted with grief and in awe before the mystery, the closed their eyes and slept...and slept. It comforts me to think of the Twelve in this way. It sanctifies my grief - all the losses that have made me who I am.
On Wednesday our prioress buried her father. Sister Cecilia presided at her father's vigil and gave a beautiful relection at his funeral. I am in awe of her still. Like the apostles she was able to go on in faith - to anticipate a new form of relationship with the man who was her "Dad." In this risen love they will meet from time to time - in memory, in prayer and those moments of presence, though difficult to describe, will be real. It will be a long time before she sees him again, (I hope,) but she will see him again. And their hearts will rejoice with a joy no one can ever take from them.
Blessings and love to you all...
- Sister Vicki