Solemnity of the Ascension May 17, 2015

After my Mom died, Archbishop Sartain sent his condolences along with words by St. John Chrysostom:

Those whom we loved and lost are no longer where they were before.  They are now wherever we are.

These words, penned in the 4th century, are timeless in their meaning and can aid us in grasping the elusive nature of Christ’s Ascension, the Solemnity we now celebrate.  Chrysostom’s words bring this mystery out of the clouds—so to speak—and close to earth; into our lived reality here and now.  His words make this great mystery less ethereal and close at hand.

The mystery of Jesus’ Ascension is timeless.  Yet, it is essential, and necessary for anyone wishing to find hope within our time-bound existence.   I recall other words by William Stafford; in his poem on stars called, “What If We Were Alone?”

Our lives are headed outward…Each glittering point of light beckons: “There is something beyond.”

There is something beyond, Jesus is saying as he ascends; taken from sight.  This is its message, its hope for us today.

All of us have experienced some kind of loss.  What we’ve loved has been taken from sight and no longer within reach.    When this involves a person, we can sense their presence even though they “are no longer where they were before.” 

My Dad loved to golf, and on nearly every golf course there’s found poplar trees.  When I first caddied for him on Saturdays and as a kid, I noticed those trees.  I loved to watch them bend in the wind.  There was a bit of a ‘monk’ inside me even at that early age, I guess.  After he died in August 2003, I began to see poplars in a new manner.  Whenever I pass a line of poplars on the Sammamish River Trail while cycling, I think of Dad and sense him with me; in the looking and the awareness, if that makes sense.  Whenever I pass those poplars, he’s with me; he’s there whenever I am aware and look with attention.  My Dad—mysteriously—is within reach, though taken from sight and within another realm (which is all one when we learn to see it with the eyes of faith).  As St. Catherine of Siena described it:  “All the way to heaven is heaven.”

Before she left for Samoa—where the entire family eventually will move for two years—Patricia Cleary, parishioner of our parish, came to say good-bye.  Her mother, too, died earlier this year, in New York.  Her name was Winifred, a lovely woman with a Gaelic lilt to her voice.  I think of her whenever I use the tea cup she brought me from Ireland.  Dave, Patricia’s husband, has wanted to make this move and what has freed her to accept such a venture into the unknown is—among other things—the thought that she carries her mother wherever she now goes.  Before her death, she was torn by the thought of being even further away.  Now, she believes as St. John Chrysostom believed: that “Those whom we loved and lost are no longer where they were before.  They are now wherever we are.” 

In the Ascension, Christ is taken from sight.  No longer bound by geography and limited by this time-bound existence, Jesus is present to us wherever we go.  It’s the way of love.  He promised before his death not to leave us orphaned, and the leap of faith all of us must make means taking that promise to heart.  When we do, we will—eventually—sense the presence and hope Christ offers, which life offers, too:  a seamless whole and gift which  beckons, “There is something beyond.”


Father Tim Clark, Pastor




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