Whenever I pray the Glorious mysteries of the rosary, I am always intrigued with the mystery called: The Ascension. In my mind’s eye I can see Jesus ascending into heaven as the Apostles and perhaps some other disciples are looking on. I imagine myself standing there, crying out, “Don’t go yet!” The Bible says only that the Apostles were looking up and no one asked him to stay. In my thoughts I am wishing that Jesus had stayed around a little bit longer.
When my sister Jill was ill, several years before she passed away, I remember an event when it appeared that Jill was dying. Jill had lost 5 units of blood in 6 days from a kidney infection. I was so concerned about Jill’s care that I spent one night with her. While I was lying on the room’s sofa softly praying the rosary, I saw mom and dad standing at her bedside, praying for the life of their youngest daughter. As I had reacted some years ago when I witnessed my long dead parents at their child’s bedside, the Apostles were speechless and somewhat stunned by what they saw – Jesus, being taken up to heaven in a cloud, forever lost to their sight. The Apostles could not understand what they were witnessing, as I could not understand how my parents long dead were at Jill’s side.
We are told that clouds in the Bible express a theophany, a sign that God is visibly present. Men in white, presumably angels, tell the Apostles that Jesus will return just as they saw Him leave. The Apostles then return to Jerusalem, perhaps quiet and lost in their thoughts, to await the coming of the Holy Spirit, following Jesus’ instructions.
We are also told that the Apostles “devoted themselves with one accord to prayer.” There are old paintings depicting that time, of the Apostles praying during those days as they awaited the Spirit. The paintings are usually somber, expressing a sense of quiet and deep prayer. I imagine that there were often times of solitary or even group prayer and perhaps prayers in the Temple as the Apostles waited, just as the old paintings depict. But maybe – and here is my “what if” – if much of what the Apostles did during those days was remember? The men and some women disciples sat around in that upper room in groups; they ate together; perhaps they sat by themselves at times – and they remembered and talked about the events of the last three years. The Apostles remembered His words; they remembered His miracles; they remembered the laughter and tears they had all shared. And as they remembered, the Lord was once again present to them in the words and memories which they shared.
Remembering can be a way of praying and uniting oneself with God, for it is meditative and draws one into a quiet time which leaves us open to our Creator’s voice. Perhaps instead of the Apostles always being on their knees in quiet and sadness at the loss of the Lord for days on end, as one might see in the paintings, the time was one of joy and expectation. It was a time of wonderment for them that ordinary men, as they were, had been privileged to see God, that they had been privileged to witness the unimaginable. They will wonder about those things until God calls them “home” just as I wonder about what I saw in that hospital room.