Today we celebrate the Ascension of Jesus - the Son's return to the Father.
I had not planned to post anything, at least not on this subject. I still want to write about my Wittenberg colleagues and the glory they carry. But this morning in mass I was so moved that I felt the need to express some of my wonder and joy in words. These thoughts are directed to you, Jesus, my Lord, and though they are scattered and incomplete, still they make me love You more and long for the day we see you return just as You left!
When I was a child I felt no particular emotion about the Ascension. It all seemed very logical to me. You came to earth, died for our sins, rose again, and were done. Nothing left to do. So of course You went back to heaven to wait, like us. Wait for all the exciting stuff in Revelation to get started.
You know, Lord, far better than I, how many gaps pock this early theology, but I think I got one thing right. You sit in heaven at the right hand of the Father waiting, eagerly. Not that you are inactive as I once imagined. Not at all! But You, like we, live in the tension of in-between, longing for a future which is certain and glorious, but not yet come to fullness. Christ has died, Christ is Risen, Christ will come again.
Because I have known You only in Your resurrected, glorified state, it took me several years to understand Your Ascension was a day of complex emotions for the disciples. They were like Mary at the tomb, wanting to cling to You. They loved You! They knew You as a friend - as the best friend they had ever had, the best friend they would ever have. They relied on You. They worked for You! And You were leaving them.
I am sure they rejoiced to see You glorified. I am sure their hearts were bursting with wonder and awe! I am certain they felt hope and purpose in Your words of commisioning. But surely they felt some loss as well.
And what about You, Lord? Only recently have I imagined what a joyful day that must have been for You! How You longed to embrace the Father, having done all He asked. How the Father ached to see You clothed in Your rightful glory, in Your Victory! How You rejoiced with Him together over the Bride You had saved. And celebrated with the prophets and saints watching, waiting to welcome You home! What giddy jubilation You and the Father must have felt sending the Holy Spirit upon men as promised, enabling them to know the mind of God - the seeming drunkeness of men at Pentecost only a pale shadow of the party in heaven. What a beautiful day, for us and for You!
But now, knowing more of Your unfathomable love, I dare to wonder if You also felt some pangs of grief on the day of Your Ascension? As much as the disciples loved You, You loved them more. And this earth, humble as it is, was also your home. You have two homes now, just as you have two natures. And You are the Reconciler - bringing heaven to earth, taking men to heaven. I can't wait to see the dwelling You have prepared for me in our Father's house, or the New Jerusalem coming down!
I wonder if Nathanael, when he saw You ascend, remembered the words You spoke when You first met him?
“Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these. Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”