Today is one of those big Christian days of observance: the Feast of the Ascension — the day Jesus was said to have “flown” up into heaven.
We have an altar in the main school chapel that rests on a great boulder. If you stand before the altar and look carefully (though it’s not particularly subtle) at that boulder, you see a chubby, female behind on a bench. It’s just one of those things; once you see it that way, you’ll never be able to look at it again without thinking about a naked woman’s bottom.
And when I think of the Ascension, the image that springs to mind is of a cartoon drawn by one of our creative sisters. All the characters in her cartoons are flamingos in thick-soled sneakers; in this one, all you see are skinny flamingo legs clad in clunky tennis shoes, hanging down from a cloud.
Christ ascending on high.
Now before you start ragging on me about my disrespectful bent, hear me out.
I don’t know if Jesus actually zoomed off the surface of Earth into a great cloud. Frankly, I doubt it — though, as is true of many things, I could be wrong. (I am almost certain he wasn’t wearing sneakers.) But if we bind ourselves to a reading that is literal and exclusive, we may miss any deeper message that might be revealed in the disciples’ post crucifixion experiences.
What if Jesus was trying to reawaken in us the significance of our participation in the great, transformative cycle of existence, where birth is not the beginning and death is not the end? All beings (and this is not limited to human beings) are involved in a continual energy exchange, a transformation journey that includes birth, life, death, transformation, resurrection, birth, life, death … and on and on and on.
Perhaps the Risen Christ was trying to communicate something more complex, more important, more compassionate, more satisfying, more promising, more challenging than the “ascension” of one particular being. Maybe each of us is more like Jesus than we are comfortable knowing.
Okay. If you still want to rag, go right ahead.