Stretching Himself as if again,
through downpress of dust
upward, soul giving way
to thread of white, that reaches
for daylight, to open as green
leaf that it is…
not have been
as the return
from Sheol, and
back through the tomb
now must relinquish
as Man –
Eye of Eternity.
Mothering His birth:
torture and bliss.
~Denise Levertov “Ascension”
For as a cloud received Him from their sight,
So with a cloud will He return ere long:
Therefore they stand on guard by day, by night,
Strenuous and strong.
They do, they dare, they beyond seven times seven
Forgive, they cry God’s mighty word aloud:
Yet sometimes haply lift tired eyes to Heaven–
“Is that His cloud?”
~Christina Rossetti from “Ascension Day”
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 .
~Malcolm Guite “Ascension”
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
My soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.
Psalm 130: 5-6 from a Song of Ascents
Waiting is essential to the spiritual life.
But waiting as a disciple of Jesus is not an empty waiting.
It is a waiting with a promise in our hearts
that makes already present what we are waiting for.
We wait during Advent for the birth of Jesus.
We wait after Easter for the coming of the Spirit,
and after the ascension of Jesus
we wait for his coming again in glory.
We are always waiting,
but it is a waiting in the conviction that
we have already seen God’s footsteps.
— Henri Nouwen from Bread For The Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith
Ascension Day observance reminds me that waiting is a hard sweet paradox in the Christian life. It is hard not yet having what I know is coming.
But it is sweet to have certainty it is coming because of the footprints left behind:
He has been here among us and, in His ascension, carried our dust to heaven.
The waiting won’t be easy; it will often be painful to be patient, staying alert to possibility and hope when all seems exhausted. Others won’t understand why we wait, nor do they comprehend what we could possibly be waiting for.
So we persevere together, with patience, watching and hoping; we are a community groaning together in sweet expectation of the morning.
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