I did not grow up in a tradition that formally celebrated Ascension or Pentecost. I knew the story of Christ ascending was important but I didn't know why.
The Bible indicates that 40 days after the resurrection of Jesus, he took his disciples to Bethany on the Mount of Olives. There he told them to await the coming of the Holy Spirit. He blessed them and was carried up into heaven.
The significance of Christ's ascension is manifold.
It connects to Old Testament imagery of Moses ascending Sinai and returning with gift of Torah.
It connects Jesus to the Exalted King in Psalms 24, 68 and 47 in which heaven and earth are united under His reign.
It conveys the power of Christ our King "who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him." (I Peter 3:22).
It commissions us to participate in the inaugurated Kingdom of God through the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1-3).
It prepares us for the return of Christ the King. Early Christian depictions of the Ascension purposefully left the viewer wondering if Christ is ascending or returning.
Meditations on Ascension
Over the next 10 Days, I invite you to engage these Ascension themes through a series of Lectio and Visio Divina meditations. This painting is entitled “The Flower: Zenith” . It is the second of three in a series called “The Witnesses.” Cody Wood is the Liturgical Artist in Residence for the Columbus Anglican Mission.
We invite you to take some time for contemplation and prayer, allowing God to move not only your heart, but your whole body, as you consider what it means to bear witness to Christ the King.
♱ Opening Sentence
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
HEBREWS 4:14, 16
♱ Gospel Reading
Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.
What word or phrase stood out to you as you read this passage? What drew you to it?
♱ Contemplate with Art:
Look at the painting and pause at the first thing that catches your eye. Stay there for a moment and ask what it is that draws you to this place?
Continue around the painting in the same manner, pausing to gaze at each place that catches your eye.
Now sit back and look at the painting as a whole. What, if anything, do you see that you didn’t notice before?
♱ Body Prayer:
Stand up and stretch your arms up over your head. Turn your gaze upward and pray:
Blessed are you Lord God, King of the Universe.
Read the passage again, allowing yourself to enter with your imagination. What do you notice?
Returning to the art, where do you place yourself in the scene? What do you think or feel?
As you witness Jesus ascending, what do you want to say to him?
Close your eyes and recall the passage and painting in your mind. What do you remember? Talk with God about anything you experienced.
Are you resistant to anything you are experiencing? If so talk to God about what you are resisting.
Do you sense God speaking to you or calling you to action? Ask God for the help to follow his voice.
♱ Pray: Almighty God, whose only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ ascended into heaven: May our hearts and minds also there ascend, and with him continually dwell; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.