The ambiguity of the Ascension

Easter tells us that Jesus is himself the first part of new creation;
his ascension tells us that he is now running it.
N. T. Wright

 The feast of the Ascension of Jesus to heaven is not a very big celebration. Easter and Pentecost seem to make it insignificant.

I wonder if it’s because it’s an ambiguous feast. Jesus is leaving us – again.

In a poem, the sixteenth century Augustinian Friar Luis de Leon expressed this lament:

And you leave your flock, Holy Shepherd,
in this deep and dark valley,
alone and weeping.
And you, bursting the pure air,
go off to immortal security?

A few weeks ago, reading a section of N.T.Wright’s Simply Jesus, I got a new insight into the ascension.

Referring to the public life of Jesus and his resurrection, Wright suggests:

A new power is let loose in the world, the power to remake what was broken, to heal what was diseased, to restore what was lost. The kingdom that Jesus had inaugurated strangely, mysteriously, and partially during his public career through his healings, feastings, and teachings was now unveiled in a totally new dimension.

But what sense is there of Jesus ascending to heaven. We think of heaven as “out there,” above us all, far off.

But Wright reminds us that “heaven is the place from which the world is run. It is the CEO’s office.”

Today, let us remember that Jesus is “in charge,” even though the world is far from being the “Kingdom of God.”

He is already in charge, but all is not yet fulfilled.

“Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up to heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will return in the same way as you have seen him go there.” (Acts 1: 11)

Get moving, share the Good News; be witnesses to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1: 8)


The poem of Luis de Leon is found in Orar la Historia y el Conflicto by Jesús Manuel Sariego and José María Tojeira (UCA Editores, 1999):

Y dejas Pastor Santo
tu grey en este valle hondo, oscuro,
con soledad y llanto.
¿Y tú rompiendo el puro
aire, te vas al inmortal seguro?

The quotations from N. T. Wright were found in the excerpt from Simply Jesus in the volume The 10 Best Books to Read for Easter, edited by Fr. James Martin, S.J.


2 responses to “The ambiguity of the Ascension

  1. But, of course, even if Jesus is “gone” physically, where is “the Church?” – a question raised by Padre German in his homily in San Agustin on Sunday afternoon. It’s a remark that fits well with my original posting.

  2. Your post is filled with such good news, yet I find myself drawn to the quote from Friar Luis de Leon’s poem. For the last month and a half, I have struggled mightily with my depression resulting in lethargy, lack of productivity and self criticism. At times, I’ve felt alone and in the dark so I can relate to Friar de Leon’s lament:

    And you, bursting the pure air,
    go off to immortal security?

    But as you point out, Jesus is in charge and looking to the heavens for him will do no good. He is among us calling on me to help build his kingdom on earth and that during these dark and lonely times all I have to do is turn to him and he will fill me a breath of new life.

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