Today in the life of the Church is the Feast of the Ascension, the day on which Christians commemorate the return of the risen Christ to His Father in heaven. Having walked and talked and eaten with His closest friends throughout the forty days since His Resurrection, Jesus' journey on earth has come, at last, to an end. It is a bittersweet moment - especially for the disciples, who have had Jesus back with them for just a precious few weeks before He is taken away again. It is a moment marked as much by human grief and longing as it is by divine triumph.
As a little girl I was fascinated by the Ascension story, largely because of an illustration in my children's Bible that depicted the scene rather spectacularly. It captured a groovy-looking 1960's Jesus "mid-flight," bathed in radiant yellow light as His feet hovered just above the ground while His disciples stood below, their mouths agape. That image made a big impression on my child's imagination, and I have never forgotten it in the decades since. In fact, I still have that Bible, and out of curiosity I looked at it again today and was amazed to discover that the picture is exactly as I remembered! Such is the power of the visual. I loved that illustration and the story it accompanied because Jesus seemed nothing short of magical to me. I didn't understand the sorrow of the Ascension; all I saw was a miraculous display of power and light.
Now that I am an adult another, very different, representation of the Ascension captures my imagination. I have shared the image below, in the event that you might find it as meaningful as I do: it is of a dove, rising to the heavens, having broken free of its earthly chains. The design is such that the eye can't help but be drawn upward, through the ruptured shackles, toward the light.
In this time in which so many of us are feeling constrained - literally, as captives in our homes, and figuratively, by the weight of difficult emotions - I offer this icon of the Ascension as a powerful visual. It reminds me (and I hope it will you, too) of God's ultimate triumph over all that binds us, all that holds us back, in this life.
I encourage you to spend some time with this image in the days to come. Enter into it. Allow it to shape your imagination. What might God have to say to you through it?
I wish you a peaceful, restorative night.