So when they had come together, they asked him, ‘Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He replied, ‘It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up towards heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’(Acts 1:6-11 NRSV).
There are two sentences n this reading from Acts that is catching me. The first is “When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up,,,,”
What I meditate on in those words is Jesus showing us what Contemplative prayer is. Contemplative prayer and the mystical experience of God happen as our hearts and souls are “lifted up” beyond our limits in the wonder and holiness of God. We can sit in silence before a cross, an icon or just in a beautiful grassy field with a stream flowing. The Holy One can lift us up to the vision of Christ as He speaks to our hearts to give us a view of ourselves from God’s perspective. Where there are no labels, no situation, place or thing to hold us down or blur what we see. Only the Light of Jesus gazing His eyes at us, while we see His face. No words are adequate to explain or describe the experience. We just know that God is present to us in a marvelous and mysterious way.
The second set of words that speak to me are “why do you stand looking up towards heaven?” As contemplatives, we seek union with God in the here and now. We can stare into heaven all we want. We may catch a mysterious glimpse of God, however, the longer we stay there, the more likely we will miss God’s presence in our spouses, children, and our local communities. The same Ascended Jesus who is in heaven is closest to God with our humanity with all our wounds interceding on our behalf. Yet, God is so madly in love with us, wounds including, that “nothing can separate us from the love of God, in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:39).
“Without doubt, this descent and ascent can signify only hat we descend by exaltation and ascend by humility” (RB 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in Latin and English, Chapter 7;7, p.193).
How does meditating on the Ascension of Jesus impact your life today?
Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB