In Scripture fire always attests to the presence of God. This is why the fire is blessed by the priest and is carried into the church in a dramatic way at the Easter Vigil. It is why at baptism the godparents and parents are given a lighted candle for the child who has just entered the community. It is why we light candles before the tabernacle where the Blessed Sacrament is housed and have lighted candles accompany the Word to be proclaimed at the ambo, then stationed at the altar for the Eucharistic sacrifice at Mass. Similarly, cloud is also a sign of God’s presence. We use incense to show this: while it represents our prayers rising on high to God, it also represents the mystery of the presence of God. For example, at major celebrations the priest incenses the altar before the liturgy of the Eucharist begins. The cloud envelops the sanctuary as a sign of the presence and mystery of God. These are powerful gestures because what they symbolize is an unfathomable reality: the presence of God among us.
It matters not what day we celebrate the feast of the Ascension. I admit to preferring unity in celebrating the Feast of the Ascension on the Thursday which is 10 days before Pentecost, just as the timeline of Scripture says it took place. But if we recognize that Jesus was not born on December 25 and can live with celebrating Christmas on that day anyhow, then we can live with the Ascension being celebrated on a different day than a Thursday. Everything is in God’s time (Kairos) anyhow. Therefore, rather than wailing and gnashing our teeth about Ascension being celebrated on the ‘wrong day,’ whether our preference is for Thursday or Sunday, what is most important is that we focus on the mystery of our faith, allowing ourselves to be filled with wonder and awe at its reality. The calendar is not important: the glorification of Jesus and participating in it, is. So let us allow ourselves to stand in Bethany with the apostles, witnessing Jesus being enveloped into the light which is simultaneously emanating from within Him. Let us open our mouths in songs of praise, our eyes to the wonder of His Ascension, our minds to the reality that He will come again, and our hearts to the mercy and love which He has offered us. We are His witnesses to the ends of the earth. Let us enter into the light as we await the outpouring of the Spirit anew.
©Michele L. Catanese
The photos are all my own. The first was taken in Theodore Roosevelt Park in North Dakota. I chose it because of the fiery light depicted in the setting sun. The sun was retreating, as if into the heavens, symbolic of Jesus leaving the earth yet in reality is still present. That we cannot see the sun at night does not mean it is not there, but that it is simply out of view. The mix of fire and cloud is appropriate to my image of the Ascension.
The second photo was taken as I was climbing Mt. Mucrone in Biella Province in northern Italy. I was viewing another mountain as a cloud descended upon it during the climb, prior to my own Shekinah/Moses experience on Mt. Mucrone.
Next is the Ascension of the Lord by the famous medieval painter Giotto. I chose this one specifically because it depicts Jesus fully, not just His feet, and He is surrounded by light, similar to what the film, Risen, showed.
The fourth image is a photo of a glorious cloud with the sun just behind the upper portion. The number one rule of photography is not to shoot into the sun, but the cloud cooperated and provided cover so that I could shoot into the sun without the light washing out the shot. This photo is literally the fire in the cloud.
Fifth is an icon called The Second Coming of Christ the King by Fr. William Hart McNichols. I chose to use this icon because it shows Jesus blessing us, even though the background might seem ominous. He will come on a cloud and He will come in glory: that is what He assured the apostles at the Ascension. We have nothing to fear, and it will be a time of joy in seeing Him face to face as we resurrect, too. The color of His robe depicts peace. The icon can be found at http://fineartamerica.com/featured/the-second-coming-of-christ-the-king-149-william-hart-mcnichols.html
Finally, the last photo is also mine. It was taken at Marble Falls, TX. The beauty of the scene depicts creation, and therefore the wonders of all God has done. The new Heaven and Earth will be even more beautiful. Hard to imagine, but true!