I have trouble relating to the Ascension. It seems a little cheap magic tricky. And also a lot unfair. Forty days later, forty days, there’s some weird thing with a cloud and he’s off again. Less blood this time, less horror and cross-clinging, but really.
I asked Rachel, my partner in potentially criminal theology, what to write about on this topic, and she asked what happened to Jesus’ body in the whole Ascension thing. I said it went with him, that this was part of the point. So I’m gonna think about bodies-and-spirits together, the things they do together, the things they do with/in Jesus and with/in us—because today, for me, that is the mystery of the Ascension.
On the subway, on my way home tonight, I remembered to bless the time I had with these bored and tired strangers. To peer, for a moment, at the shape and flow that had pulled us into contact with each other. To give them my best, with my eyes and my stance, for we might never meet again. I watched their bodies. I thought of the Hindu practice of darsan, which I have been taught to understand as both seeing and being seen by God, by Gods, by a holy person. I practiced a weird darsan on the subway, blessing and being blessed by eyes that looked away from mine, by worn faces and clutched umbrellas. This was the moment of all of us together, and I branched out.
On the way to the subway, there’s this shelter-thing. It’s a perfunctory wooden structure, three walls and a floor. There’s always somebody in it, somebody ragged with whom I do not wish to think about mutual blessing. On one of the inside walls it says, written in marker, “It is Jesus who loves us, not the church.” Today the man inside smelled terrible. The kind of smell that reaches inside and twists my stomach. My disgust—in my body, for his body– is visceral and not-to-be-escaped. It was the moment of us together, and I recoiled.
You know that saying, “You make a better door than a window?” It’s an oddly poetic chastisement for being in the way, saying, “I can’t see through you,” that always made me nervous about my own solidity. Being body-and-spirit, I think, is being door and window. God and human. This and that and the other thing, too. It is always being both in the way and on the way.
And what does it mean to ascend, with/in that body-and-spirit?
I still don’t know. But perhaps it’s somewhat about dissemination. About why I meet Jesus all over the place, in all kinds of bodies. He ascends, but like all the rest of it, I dare to hope this is not what it appears to be. He may be more Emmanuel than ever. And where he has gone, he calls us to follow. Be body-and-spirit in all places. See, and be seen. Move, and be moved.
It’s gonna be some trick, if we can pull it off.
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