By Tom Quiner
What in the world was Luke thinking?
I refer to the writer of the third Gospel. In yesterday’s Gospel from the 24th chapter of Luke, one sentence leapt out at me:
“As he blessed them he parted from them and was taken up to heaven.”
‘He was taken up to heaven?’
‘He parted from them?’
Good grief, Luke, this is big stuff! Doesn’t an event of this magnitude deserve a little punchier prose than you were able to muster? How ’bout something like this:
“Jesus led the faithful to a sacred place, the last place on earth on which the Son of Man would stand. The disciples surrounded Him. Tears welled up in Peter’s eyes. “How am I able to go on without the Master’s loving presence by my side?” he thought to himself.
“We are nothing without Him,” thought James.
“At least I’ll have His Mother to comfort me after He is gone,” thought John.
Jesus gazed out at His band of Brothers and smiled knowingly. He knew their every hope and fear. He approached His every Disciple. One by one, He talked quietly to each. He looked each one in the eyes and smiled the smile that left a trail of joy in its wake.
“Peter, don’t worry about anything. I know this doesn’t make sense right now, but I am with you now and until the end of time. In other words, you are never, ever alone. Yes, my Body will be raised up into heaven in a few minutes, but in ten days time, I will send my Spirit. Be patient, my friend, these next ten days are important. They’ll teach you the power of patience and perseverance. The wait is worth it. The power of love can’t be stopped. It will sustain you forever as you forge a new world built upon My Church. You are My Rock, Peter, and I love you.”
These words were too much for the Fisherman. His tears flowed, and they were conflicted tears.
Tears of joy.
Tears of fear.
Tears of anxiety.
Tears of grief.
And tears of hope.
It was almost time…
…But there was one person left: His Mother, the person whom the Lord loved more than any other.
Jesus took Mary by the hand and led her away from the others for His final, private good bye.
Mary smiled at her Son,
“Fly to the angels, Son. Love has just begun. Thy Father’s will be done.”
Jesus smiled back,
“I shall go and make a place, for the human race, in a land where they may see God’s Face.”
Mary’s heart was pounding,
“Fly to the angels, Lord, You shall be adored. Hope for this world is restored.”
The Lord’s eyes were full of the love that had transformed the world,
“I shall go and make a place,for the human race,in a land where they may see God’s Face.
You shall join me in the new Jerusalem one day.”
Mary leapt for joy …
“For that day I pray!”
“Mother, I shall call for you. Heaven waits for her Queen. And I wait, too.
Now we must say good-bye.
But, you need not cry.”
The gentle Mother of the Lord was overcome,
“How I will miss those eyes! They will soothe me in my dreams. O what love they’ve seen!”
The Lord was radiant: “They have seen Heaven’s future Queen.”
And then it happened.
The heavens opened. Christ extended His arms over His Church. Each person on the ground swore He looked at them, and them alone as His body slowly, slowly rose. And then the Son Man looked up and smiled as His body disappeared from view. A choir of angels could be heard singing, ‘Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.’
Man had never heard such beauty. If only it would never end!
And then there was silence.
The young Church fell its knees in a prayer of thanksgiving, the likes of which had never been heard on heaven or earth.”
Okay, I’m being way too hard on Luke.
His frugal text conveys what God wanted us to know about the Ascension of our Lord. It gives the artist a lot of freedom to explore the meaning and beauty of this historical and spiritual event in the life of the church.
For two-thousand years, artists have been inspired to create art based on the ascension. Most recently, I recreated the scene in my new musical, THE FIRE AND THE MERCY, The Pentecost Musical [above]. The scene is called, “Fly to the Angels.” In it, Mary says goodbye to her Son.
G.K. Chesterton once said, “art is the signature of man.” God has created this burning desire in man to create art, because beauty is simply a reflection of God.
We are drawn to beauty.
We are drawn to eternity.
The Ascension shows us the path.