Sister Doreen’s Reflections
A comment about the Ascension by George MacLeod called “No Other Plans”:
“There is a very old legend, and all legends that persist speak truth, concerning the return of the Lord Jesus Christ to heaven after his Ascension. It is said that the angel Gabriel met him at the gates of the city.
‘Lord this is a great salvation that thou hast wrought,’ said the angel. But the Lord Jesus only said, ‘Yes.”
“What plans hast thou made for carrying on the work? How are all to know what thou hast done?’ asked Gabriel.
‘I left Peter and James and John and Martha and Mary to tell their friends, their friends to tell their friends, till all the world should know.’
‘But Lord Jesus,’ said Gabriel, ‘suppose Peter is too busy with the nets, or Martha with the housework, or the friends they tell are too occupied, and forget to tell their friends – what then?’
The Lord Jesus did not answer at once, then he said in his quiet wonderful voice: ‘I have not made any other plans. I am counting on them.’”
Several thoughts came to me when pondering these words. One was the overwhelming understanding that in a very real way the feast of the Ascension is one of God’s most tremendous act of faith in us. The trust, the possibilities, the deep believing in us – all of this and so very much more – is held in the loving heart and hands of God as this feast tells us that God believes we are ready to be God’s body, the Church, on earth. At the same time this feast is the embodiment of that paradox of leaving us and yet always being with us. It is that tenacious love that sets us free and yet will not let us go.
It was this paradoxical truth, setting us free and yet not letting us go that is the paradoxical mystery of this feast day. In one sense the Lord Jesus ‘leaves’ us and is taken away into heaven, but in another sense the Lord Jesus is given to us and to the world in a new and more universal way. Put another way, Jesus’ humanity is taken into heaven so our humanity belongs there too, and is in a sense already there with Jesus. “For you have died”, says St. Paul, “and your life is hidden with Christ in God”. In the ascension the Lord Jesus’ glory is at once revealed and concealed, and so is ours.
I share a Poem by Malcolm Guite called An Ascension Sonnet:
We saw his light break through the cloud of glory
Whilst we were rooted still in time and place
As earth became a part of heaven’s story
And heaven opened to his human face.
We saw him go and yet we were not parted
He took us with him to the heart of things
The heart that broke for all the broken-hearted
Is whole and Heaven-centred now, and sings,
Sings in the strength that rises out of weakness,
Sings through the clouds that veil him from our sight,
Whilst we our selves become his clouds of witness
And sing the waning darkness into light,
His light in us, and ours in him concealed,
Which all creation waits to see revealed .
Here is part of a reflection Macrina Wiederkhr wrote about Ascension, which I have always loved:
’Ascensions into heaven are like falling leaves
sad and happy all at the same time
Going away isn’t really sad
especially when your going
enables a new kind of presence to be born.
Long have the leaves known the trees
They’ve danced together in the wind
days upon days.
But now, growing older and wiser,
they know they can’t cling to the trees forever.
and so they say goodbye
Falling to the ground
waiting for the mystery of death
to transform them
into nourishment for the earth.
And the trees?
They stand alone for one short season
but they are at peace,
waiting for another mystery
to enfold them
with its presence….’