Why is Ascension Day, a critical moment in our Church calendar, so often ignored or dismissed? In this week’s edition of our weekly newsletter, Scott considers this day that we sometimes “reduce to special effects,” and what important lessons it can teach us.
Dear friends in Christ,
Today is Ascension Day, the oft-neglected Principal Feast. I’ve heard people dismiss Ascension Day as quaint, if not pointless. After all, this thinking goes, we know that science doesn’t work that way. Never mind that we’re talking about Jesus after the resurrection. That is, the non-zombie back-from-the-dead defying-every-law-of-science Jesus. But we reduce Ascension Day to special effects, and then they become merely a distraction.
When I say the special effects are a distraction, what I really mean is that it’s the wrong way to frame the question. The right question is not how, but why? Several years ago, I read a meditation by, I think, Sam Portaro, that highlighted the blessing aspect of Ascension Day. Jesus offered a blessing that day in at least two ways. First, he lifted his hands and blessed them. Even more than this, his very departure is a kind of blessing. You see, when Jesus left his followers, he showed a great deal of trust. Jesus’ departure demonstrated that he trusted them–and us–to continue his ministry. Jesus trusts us. And trust is a blessing.
Perhaps the point of Ascension Day is that the burden of ministry shifts to us to carry on Christ’s work, equipped and inspired by the Holy Spirit. We can’t do this on our own, of course, but by God’s grace we can.
When we celebrate Ascension Day, we are not celebrating special effects or dramatic departures. Rather, today we are celebrating the fact that Jesus has given us the gift of trust and the joys of carrying on his ministry.
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