I rather like the fact that this year, Ascension Sunday is at the end of Christian Aid week. In the past, when I was very young, I remember helping my mum go door to door either to collect or post the envelopes which people are asked to place their contributions in. When I was asked if I would be able to help out this year, I must admit to having some trepidation, not least because I had a hard time envisioning myself going around knocking on people’s doors without the presence of someone far more confident and straightforward than I.
But I succeeded without getting bitten, although a friendly terrier did keep sniffing at my shoes which somewhat worried me. No, bolstered by a mixture of Dave Walker’s usual cartooning brilliance, the latest podcast from Tom and Lorenzo and the glorious weather, I found it altogether not unpleasant and sometimes rather euphoric, as a door would close with my collector’s bag being just that extra bit heavier.
Earlier in the week I joined my church choir to sing on Ascension morning at the top of Warwick Castle. The service was short and sweet (emphasis on short) but we managed to avoid the promised rain, an improvement on previous years. I have that on good authority, by the way, having not been a member for a full year just yet!
The Ascension season has been odd, not least with me suffering from low spirits of late and the hesitant, fumbling end of a project at work. There are always lessons and patterns one can ascribe to such things and it did make me think about the mundanity of everyday life when placed against the thrills of our Christian calendar. When I was younger, I liked Ascension day because I could indulge in ideas about wormholes and inter-dimensional portals. Now, the thing I like to ponder is just what it means to have a comforter, an ascended God-become-Man who can empathise and walk with you whilst simultaneously being judge and jury.
Benedict XVI, in Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week (Ignatius Press, 2011), offered several insights into the nature and meaning of the Ascension. Referring to St. Luke’s account of the Ascension (Lk 24:50-53), he noted that after Christ “was taken up to heaven”, the disciples did not weep or act confused but “returned to Jerusalem with great joy…” He stated, “The joy of the disciples after the ‘Ascension’ corrects our image of this image. ‘Ascension’ does not mean departure into a remote region of the cosmos but, rather, the continuing closeness that the disciples experience so strongly that it becomes a source of lasting joy.”
It’s all very intersectional – incarnational, even! – and complicated and will probably keep me occupied at least until tomorrow when it’s back to work and I have to be social again. Bother.