Clergy are apt to say on Ascension Day that the feast gets rather a raw deal because, although it is only behind Easter, Christmas and Pentecost in importance we tend not to mark its celebration very clearly. For a few years in this country it was moved to the following Sunday, as it still is in some countries, but it was restored to the Thursday in England and Wales recently, Nevertheless the pandemic means that we can’t observe it as we would like.
I would commend today’s Radio 4 ‘Thought for the Day’ broadcast by the Rector of St James’ Piccadilly, Lucy Winkett and I will upload the link for you when it becomes available. She links the bodily removal of the risen Christ from earth, which we mark today, with our experience of daily life and worship because of the pandemic. Our worship, like much else, has had to become less physical, even if we’re able to join in Masses online. This is both a challenge and an opportunity. After his Ascension Jesus remains present in his Church, among his disciples, through the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and through our sacramental life. But our faith means that we can cope when there are problems – like not getting to Mass in our churches. Ascension Day, if we really understand it, ought to give us strength to cope with a sense of absence, a different level of experiencing the Lord’s presence in our lives.