The Orphan Feast?
Do others share my impression that for many Catholics Ascension is the neglected feast, falling, scarcely noticed, between Easter alleluias and Pentecost pyrotechnics?
And that Jesus’ Ascension, when pondered at all, appears to represent the Lord’s leaving, embarking, perhaps, on a well-earned sabbatical, until “he comes again in glory.”
The New Testament suggests a radically different perspective. Mark’s Gospel ends, speaking of the ascended Lord “working with” those he sends forth to proclaim the Good News everywhere.
The Letter to the Ephesians insists that, by his Ascension, Jesus rules as head of his body the Church, “which is the fulness of him who fills all in every way” (Eph 1:23). There is mystery here to be sure, but hardly inactivity.
What does the ascended Lord do, what action is unique to him? He pours out the Holy Spirit to all who believe and call upon his name. As Peter proclaims on Pentecost: “Exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, Jesus has poured out what you see and hear” (Acts 2:33).
We do, indeed, need a “Spirit Christology,” if we are truly to realize who Christ is and who we, as Church, are called to be. But it must be a robust, not a palid or sentimental “Spirit Christology;” and its theological point of departure is neither Jesus’ conception nor baptism, but his Ascension.
Ascension: not an “orphan feast,” but the Feast of feasts, whereby humanity is taken into the very bosom of the Father, and we are not left orphans, but raised up as daughters and sons in the Son.