Reflection for Ascension Day - 26th May 2022

This feast of the Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ celebrates the culmination of his earthly life, the fulfilment of what he came to do. Some Biblical accounts tell of him being lifted up visibly into the heavens – resulting in the delightful images of feet hanging out of clouds – but whatever people saw it was clear that the early Christians knew that the bodily presence of Jesus had withdrawn from them and that he was now in another realm. Yet whilst he was taken from them they knew also that he was more present to them than ever before. Our bodily human nature had been raised to heaven and united with divinity so that the way was open for us to participate in the divine life in a new way.

I see the two movements going on here captured beautifully and simply by our Lauds hymn:

Christ to your Father ascended,
Christ in your glory enthroned.
Make ready the heirs of your kingdom
To follow and be where you are.

Fill with your fulness of being
Those who are named with your name;
Make perfect in every Christ-bearer
God’s Trinity-image of love.

Christ has ascended into heaven and draws us upward after him to be where he is, uniting us with him in the Father’s presence. But there is also the downward movement of Christ’s gift of the Spirit which fills us here and now with the fulness of his being. In our bodily lives we unite heaven and earth, our spirits united with Christ where he is, in the bosom of the Father, yet still living our life on earth. We become Christ-bearers to the world, showing forth ‘God’s Trinity-image of love’. Our lives are constantly caught up in that round-dance of the Trinity that animates the whole universe in love. Each one of us is a microcosm of that macrocosmic dance.

Modern science reveals patterns that repeat at all scales from the astronomical to the microscopic. The very small and the very large seem to mirror one another. I believe that similarly in the life of the Spirit we find that Trinitarian mutual outpouring of love at all scales. It is what animates the universe and yet is also a dynamic that we find deep within our own hearts and within relationships with one another. We also experience it in our relationships with the non-human creation, in our sense of oneness with all that God has created. God calls us to show forth that Trinity-image in our loving service of one another, of other living creatures and the whole interconnected web of life.

In a world torn by injustice, war and environmental destruction we are called to embody a new way of relating that shifts the path of humanity towards justice, peace and respect for the integrity of creation. In our common life here as we seek to set aside our own personal preferences and to serve one another in love we help to clear that path for others to follow too. So also in our care for the buildings and land entrusted to us we need to demonstrate in a very practical way a new way of living lightly on the earth.

It can all seem hopeless and our puny efforts so small but the ascended Christ pours out the Holy Spirit upon us to empower us to live lives that can change the world.

I find myself drawn here into Jesus’ high-priestly prayer in John’s gospel, Chapter 17. It speaks to me of the life that is opened to us by the whole movement of Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension. He prays to his Father:

The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

As we ponder this movement through Ascension Day to Pentecost and beyond, may Christ fill us with the fulness and glory of his being and unite us into one body, showing forth the love of God for all that God has made.

Mother Anne - 26th May 2022