Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Ascension

Albrecht Altdorfer (b. c.1480, Regensburg, d. 1538, Regensburg).
Die Auferstehung Christi/ Ascension of Christ 1527
Tempera on wood 34.5 x 25 cm
Kunstmuseum, Basel, Switzerland

The Ascension was and is a challenging one for artists to depict convincingly. There are several examples in collections where Christ appears to have taken off rather like a rocket with only the lower part of his legs visible in the picture frame.

But it is the nature of what The Ascension was and is which causes the greatest difficulty for its depiction in art.

"So what does the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord mean for us? It does not mean that the Lord has departed to some place far from people and from the world.

Christ's Ascension is not a journey into space toward the most remote stars; for basically, the planets, like the earth, are also made of physical elements.

Christ's Ascension means that he no longer belongs to the world of corruption and death that conditions our life. It means that he belongs entirely to God. He, the Eternal Son, led our human existence into God's presence, taking with him flesh and blood in a transfigured form.

The human being finds room in God; through Christ, the human being was introduced into the very life of God. And since God embraces and sustains the entire cosmos, the Ascension of the Lord means that Christ has not departed from us, but that he is now, thanks to his being with the Father, close to each one of us for ever. Each one of us can be on intimate terms with him; each can call upon him. The Lord is always within hearing. We can inwardly draw away from him. We can live turning our backs on him. But he always waits for us and is always close to us."

From Homily of Pope Benedict XVI
on Saturday, 7 May 2005 at St John Lateran