I suppose I never thought much about the Ascension until I was about sixteen, and had found my way into the very ‘catholic’ end of the Church of England, and then discovered that – at least as the law stood then – any schoolchild had a right to take the day off on Ascension Day, providing he or she ‘attended Divine Service’ !
You can probably imagine that I made sure that I got up early and went to Mass, and then exercised my right to the day off . . !
However; I can’t say that, apart from that modest benefit, the Ascension as a concept was something I really thought about until, I think whilst I was at University, I read Mgr Knox’s ‘The Creed in Slow Motion’, and this passage about the Ascension :
‘Père Clugny used to say that the Ascension was his favourite mystery among all the mysteries of our Lord’s life, because it was the only one which made you think how nice it was for our Lord, instead of thinking how nice it was for us. The Nativity, you see, was a day of great joy for us, but not for our Lord, in that cold stable. The Passion and the Crucifixion are things we cannot think of without tears of gratitude, but they brought nothing except anguish and misery to our Lord. Even His Resurrection, though it was a day of joy for him, was still more a day of joy for us – our sins forgiven, the fear of death for ever dispelled; we are glad on Easter Day, but it’s rather a selfish kind of gladness, or so Père Clugny thought.
But the Ascension ? There at last we get the opportunity of quite unselfish rejoicing; of being glad that our Lord is going back home to His Father, and forgetting what it means to us, that we shall not see Him, not hear His gracious accents, any longer. We can say to Him “How I wish You had stayed on earth, so that we could have been like the Apostles, and seen You, and talked to You ! But I’m glad You went up to heaven, because now You are in glory, and it would be impossible for anyone who loves You as I love You to grudge You any moment of that !”’
I’m not sure there’s really anything to add to that. Let us rejoice today that Our Blessed Lord has gone home, where He invites us all to follow Him and be with Him for ever – a blessing which, of course, I warmly wish you all.