On Ascension Day 2015

 “Jesus’ ascension to heaven,” by John Singleton Copley

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“Liturgically speaking,” it was a year ago that I posted On Ascension Day.   More precisely:

Ascension Day is always celebrated on a Thursday, 40 days after Easter.  (In 2014 it falls on May 29).  This major Feast Day – ranking with Easter and Pentecost – commemorates “the bodily Ascension of Jesus into heaven.”

But this year, that 40th day after Easter falls on Thursday, May 14.  (15 days earlier than last year.)  The upshot is that since it hasn’t quite been a year, this isn’t technically an anniversary post.   But “Ascension Daywas one of my first-ever posts, so to me it’s worth commemorating.

But why “40 days after Easter?”  That’s because according to tradition, after Jesus was crucified and rose again, He stuck around on earth for 40 days, before He ascended to Heaven to “sit on the right hand of God.” See Mark 16:19, Resurrection appearances of Jesus – Wikipedia, and Why did Jesus stay around for 40 days after He came back from the grave?

The former noted that these appearances of Jesus “are reported to have occurred after his death, burial and resurrection, but prior to his Ascension.”  The latter noted:

During those 40 days [between Easter and the Ascension], He appeared to various groups … proving beyond doubt to them that he had been raised from the dead by the power of God.  Over two decades later, the Apostle Paul wrote that “he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living” (1st Cor. 15:6).

But getting back to The Ascension itself:  In the 2014 Ascension Day post, I discussed the whole idea of this “bodily ascension of Jesus into heaven.”  I noted that some people – skeptics – might have a problem with that, or with the “underlying idea that there is indeed ‘life after life,’ for each and every one of us.”  To such skeptics I cited the First law of thermodynamics, that “energy can be transformed from one form to another, but cannot be created or destroyed.”  Put another way, energy is neither created nor destroyed, but simply changes form:

So if the human soul is a form of energy – an idea that seems self-evident – then it too can neither be created nor destroyed, but simply changes form. (E.A.)

The 2014 Ascension Day also cited On arguing with God, for the idea that the name Israel literally translates, “He who struggles with God.”  But in a metaphoric sense, Israel can mean anyone who “struggles with the idea of God.”  (Or with the idea of an afterlife.)

In turn I cited the post on Ascension Day in Jesus in Hell.  That post talked about how 1st Peter 3:19–20 and 1st Peter 4:6 led to the Catholic doctrine of the harrowing of hell:

This is the Old English and Middle English term for the triumphant descent of Christ into hell (or Hades) between the time of His Crucifixion and His Resurrection, when, according to Christian belief, He brought salvation to the souls held captive there since the beginning of the world…   Writers of Old English prose homilies and lives of saints continually employ the subject, but it is in medieval English literature that it is most fully found, both in prose and verse, and particularly in the drama. (E.A.)

See also CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Harrowing of Hell – New Advent.  That in turn led to the idea that “Jesus did really die and through his death for us conquered death and the devil ‘who has the power of death.'”  (Citing Hebrews 2:14, that “through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil.”)

Or as I put it:  In his First Epistle, Peter was one of the first to advance the “whole concept of ‘life after life.‘”  (See also Raymond Moody – Wikipedia.)    I then added this:

One constant has remained:  “The above views share the traditional Christian belief in the immortality of the soul…”   [See also] Psalm 68:20[, which reads in one version] “God is the Lord, by whom we escape death.”  So all in all, “death” – like New Jersey – would seem to be a pretty good place to [be] from.  In the meantime it’s reassuring to think that Jesus would [literally] “go to hell” on our behalf…

So first Jesus got crucified, for us.  Then He “descended into Hell,” for us.  Then He reappeared on earth and stuck around 40 days, just to make sure His message got through.  Then He ascended to Heaven, to “sit at the right hand of God.”  One possible point being that we too should enjoy our time here on earth, just like He did at the Supper at Emmaus:

The upper image was courtesy of the Wikipedia article, Ascension of Jesus, with the full caption: “Jesus’ ascension to heaven depicted by John Singleton Copley, 1775.”   

The lower image is courtesy of Resurrection appearances of Jesus – Wikipedia, with the caption, “Supper at Emmaus,” in which Caravaggio “depicted the moment the disciples recognize Jesus.”  As Wikipedia noted, “The Road to Emmaus appearance refers to one of the early resurrection appearances of Jesus after his crucifixion and the discovery of the empty tomb.

Re: commemorating.  My 2014 post – On Ascension Day  – was the 25th of 151 I’ve done so far.  (As noted, on or about May 29, 2014.)  My very first post was The Bible – Lectionary Musings and Color Commentary, and was published on April 24, 2014.  That post included information on:

Quasimodo Sunday … not through any connection with Victor Hugo’s character in The Hunchback of Notre Dame.   Instead, the name comes from a Latin translation of the beginning of First Peter 2:2, a traditional “introit” used in churches on this day.    First Peter 2:2 begins – in English and depending on the translation – “As newborn babes, desire the rational milk without guile…”  In Latin the verse reads:  “Quasi modo geniti infantes

I also cited the 2014 post on Ascension Day in On the readings for June 1, which included a painting by Eugène Delacroix, Lion Devouring a Rabbit.  That post cited Peter’s warning in 1st Peter 5:8, and added that “you don’t want to end up like the rabbit in the Delacroix painting.” (E.A.)

The original post included an image, in black and white, of a woodcut, courtesy of Harrowing of Hell – Wikipedia, with the full caption:  “Christ’s Descent into Limbo, woodcut by Albrecht Dürer, c. 1510.”  See also the Jesus in Hell post, which included: Other references of possible interest include: Paradise – Wikipedia, Zohar – Wikipedia, and/or Heaven – Wikipedia.

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