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Thursday, 10 May 2018

Ascension Day

As happens every Ascension Day, I see Major James has forgotten they don't do the climbing on the roof in Tremlett any more.

It's one of those major rituals of Ascension Day. The complaint that people don't go up on the roof any more. This always seems to me to fall into two categories:
1. Nobody goes to the Ascension Day service any more because they have to go to work.
2. Except the sort of people that are best encouraged not to climb onto church roofs.

The Ascension: Hans Feibusch
Ascension Day seems to be the forgotten major feast. This is probably down to it not being a secular holiday, and being on a Thursday. I know the Catholics sometimes like to experiment with moving to the weekend. But, like transferring the Annunciation out of Holy Week, this always seems wrong to me. There's a sense in divine chronology. It was on that day - none other - the 40th days of Easter that Jesus ascended. Those 40 days matter. That's 40 days of the risen Jesus with his disciples, walking this world as a new kind of human - like us but raised beyond death. One day for each day in the Wilderness after his baptism. One day for each year that the Children of Israel wandered. 40 days of completeness.

You know the problem I have with most depictions of the Ascension? They're all a bit airy-fairy. There's a certain naffness to them. I think especially of the Chapel of the Ascension at Walsingham, where the soles of our Lord's feet are disappearing into the cloud in the chapel ceiling. It's really hard to do an image of Jesus floating off into heaven with clouds and angels, without it getting a bit that way. Which is why I like this image so much. It has echoes of those Resurrection paintings where the guards are asleep and everyone's a bit confused. There's noise and movement and in the middle of it, an Ascension happening.

The Ascension is enormously important. It's the next stage in the story of restoration and renewal. God has become that tiniest thing, a newly-conceived human. God has known our double agony - birth and death. Forgiveness, atonement, unity of God with humanity - however you want to put it, our salvation has been achieved.This one human body has defeated death. And is fit to enter heaven. Forget the idea that the body, the world is evil and to be ignored. Forget the idea that you are to be saved "from" the earth. Heaven has opened and taken in a living human being. One with a body just like ours, and bearing our scars.

Now there's a time for waiting, till the Spirit is poured out. We will be renewed. We will be made like him.


  1. The image you have posted is not at all naff or airy-fairy, but really powerful. Where is the original?

    1. All Hallows Wellingborough. Painted by the remarkable Hans Feibusch

  2. I think that the Ascension of Jesus is a critical part of our belief and the witness evidence is particularly strong, albeit differing accounts have been speculated on over the generations.

    Most of the appearances of Jesus post-resurrection involved him appearing in their midst from nowhere, even behind locked doors. So the account of the Ascension is entirely believable if you have the faith in the Gospel witness stories as truth and not fable.

    Imagery is helpful to assist us in picturing what might have happened, although the Gospel accounts are a bit sketchy on detail. I find myself imagining him being taken up in a cloud of Glory, much as he is depicted returning in triumph in a cloud of Glory.

    I'm not sure of a picture depicting his feet disappearing into the ceiling, when he was on top of a mountain, in the clouds? That sounds more like a depiction of the fictional superman taking off and flying away at supersonic speed to some dire calamity needing resolving. Not even the Arch Druid is capable of that, although a Cricket Bat seems tlo solve most of her problems.

    I suspect that like most of the events connected to Jesus' life, death, resurrection, ascension and Pentecost is that the 'leap of faith' we all need to make and trust in God's word and the Gospel being written by apostles inspired by the Holy Spirit in their compilation. The witness of the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles demonstrates very much the power of the Spirit sent to them (or breathed into them as one Gospel depicts) was indeed there and is part of our faith. We can question, even doubt, but still have faith in God's Grace and Love for us, that brought such fantastical events about.

  3. If I could draw (which I can't) I thin my picture of the ascension would be just after the main event when teh disciples are standing there with their mouths open, still staring int othe sky tryong to work out what it is that they've just witnessed. And the angels appear and say, "What are you all doing standing around like lemons? You've got work to do!"


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