Ascension Day is on Thursday this week. As Easter Day is always a Sunday, Ascension Day is always a Thursday, 40 days later.
Pentecost is also always a Sunday, 50 days after Easter Day, hence the prefix pente.
All good biblical numbers.
The Seventh Sunday of Easter, which occurs between Ascension Day and the Day of Pentecost, is always subtitled the Sunday after Ascension Day. Indeed, the propers for this Sunday also reflect the Ascension images.
Episcopalians, yours truly in particular, like things that are always, you know.
Artwork of Jesus ascending into Heaven fascinated me as a child. We have all seen those paintings of Jesus rising up into the clouds, with the disciples remaining on the ground, arms stretched over their heads.
Though I have never visited there, this photo of a ceiling medallion at York Minster in England continually captures my adult attention in the cleverest way. The presumed bottoms of Jesus’ feet are depicted and surrounded by the faces of his mother Mary and the other disciples.
As York Minster is the largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe, I can only imagine how many feet this ceiling medallion is from the floor below. (Pun intended.)
We know from scripture that Jesus ascended in his 33rd year on earth, after his vigorous three-year ministry.
From Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem to his return to the Father, Oprah might call the Ascension a full-circle moment.
Birth to death is a full-circle moment for each of us. We call these personal full-circle moments life.
Indeed, full-circle moments are symmetrical by definition.
Episcopalians, yours truly in particular, like things that are symmetrical, you know.
At 10:30 this Sunday, we will sing two grand Ascensiontide hymn texts, “Hail the day that sees him rise” and “See the Conqueror mounts in triumph.”
The oxymoron of Jesus as a conqueror is a marvelous attention-grabber in this text by English bishop and poet Christopher Wordsworth:
See the Conqueror mounts in triumph;
see the King in royal state,
riding on the clouds, his chariot,
to his heavenly palace gate!
Hark! the choirs of angel voices
joyful alleluias sing,
and the portals high are lifted
to receive their heavenly King.
He who on the cross did suffer,
he who from the grave arose,
he has vanquished sin and Satan;
he by death has spoiled his foes.
While he lifts his hands in blessing,
he is parted from his friends;
while their eager eyes behold him,
he upon the clouds ascends.
Thou hast raised our human nature
on the clouds to God’s right hand:
there we sit in heavenly places,
there with thee in glory stand.
Jesus reigns, adored by angels;
Man with God is on the throne;
mighty Lord, in thine ascension,
we by faith behold our own.
Christopher Wordsworth (1807-1885)
Photo Credit: Alamy stock photo, www.alamy.com. All rights reserved. Used by permission.