I’m always struck on Ascension Day by the thought of how confused the apostles must have been! Jesus had been present with them in his earthly ministry, absent (or so it must have seemed) from Good Friday until Easter, present during the forty days, absent again in the Ascension, yet promised to be present again when they were “clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49)
Presence, absence, presence, absence, presence… No wonder they were “gazing up toward heaven…” (Acts 1:10) they had been on an emotional roller coaster!
We too experience such roller coasters along our spiritual journeys. Many of us have experienced the confusion and the fear which comes when we feel the absence of God from our lives. Yet often those “absences” are but preludes to a deeper experience of the “presence.”
Jesus did not ascend to leave us behind. Nor did he really ascend, it seems to me, (as in the older Collect for this day) “so we may in heart and mind there ascend and with him continually dwell.” (Book of Common Prayer, page 226)
But rather, “Jesus Christ ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things” (“newer” Collect, BCP, page 226). Jesus “ascended” that he might no longer be bound by time and space, but present to his people at all times and in all places.
On this day, let us ask God to “give us faith to perceive that, according to his promise, he abides with his Church on earth, even to the end of the ages…” (ibid).