I know exactly what you mean. I wrote a bit about it here. We are left, like them “staring upwards, hoping and longing for a participation in God’s life”.
But we must rejoice, for He has not left us, He is still here, in the Tabernacle for us to visit and speak with whenever we want to. Also the sorry of the departure of Ascension will soon be overcome with the joy of the birth of the Church at Pentecost!
In the Passion and Cross of Jesus, the Apostles experienced the first of two great losses, in their Christian discipleship: they lost the (mortal) Jesus whom they had followed and learned from and began to love for three years. This was a radical loss! The Jesus who had healed the sick and even raised the dead, was now dead and buried. This loss for them corresponds, for disciples today, with what John of the Cross called the first of two “dark nights” of the soul: the Dark Night of the Senses.
In the Ascension, the Apostles experienced the second of two great losses, in their Christian discipleship: they lost the (new, the resurrected) Jesus whom they had encountered and learned from and began to worship for forty days of appearances, when He would come to them. This was a supernatural - a mystical - discipleship. But then, He left them again, to ascend to the Father so that He could send to them the Counsellor who would remain not only with them, but in them. This loss for them corresponds, for disciples today, with what John of the Cross called the second of two “dark nights” of the soul: the Dark Night of the Spirit.
This sadness you experience is a great blessing for you, I think. It is - or at least may be - a participation in the experiences of the apostles and a participation in the dark nights of all souls who would follow them toward full union with God the Holy Trinity. Are you seeking holiness, and the fullness of life in Christ?
It’s often said that “absence makes the heart grow fonder,” but that’s not the case in the Ascension. This feast is not a celebration or mourning of Christ’s absence, but a celebration of Christ’s presence being with us in a whole new and amazing way.
If Christ had not left, we would not personally receive the third Person of the Holy Trinity, the Holy Spirit. God relates to us in a unique and intimate way through His Holy Spirit. Additionally, Christ remains with under the humble guise of Bread and Wine in the Blessed Sacrament.
One of the prayers at Mass this week says, “…so that the body may follow where the head has gone.” Jesus paved the road for us. He went to heaven to prepare a dwelling place, a room in one of the mansions. He went to heaven to draw his Mother up after him and all of us after Her.
The angel asked the disciples, “Why are you staring at the sky?” as if Jesus were in the clouds. We should not be looking to the sky like the disciples but to the tabernacle because Jesus is with us always.
Jesus himself told us not to be sad because if he didn’t go then we would not receive the Paraclete. What could be better than the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, God dwelling inside of us?
I haven’t thought about it in years but when I was (much) younger I think I did feel very sad on the Ascension. It was the kind of sadness you feel at a graduation or other other change where you want something different from how things are but you realize you have to give up some of the perks of your current existence in order to gain something new.
Of course we have the advantage of hind-sight where we know the end of the story. Jesus didn’t really leave us. But that wouldn’t have been how the Apostles felt at the time.
(That just goes to show that feelings, while meaningful, are seldom a good enough reason to make a judgement or a decision.)
Today I just get excited by the idea that the Ascension is a solemnity so I don’t really think of the sadness. I more enjoy the humor of the Apostles staring up at the sky while a couple of angels ask them what they are doing.
It is sad because the disciples knew Jesus for a long time, and now he is leaving. Their ruler and guide for years has just left them again, and now they have to hide for fear of the Jews until Sunday. Honestly, it probably felt like life was crumbling around them.
I think what makes it sadder for me is that all of them would suffer martyrdom, except for John.
[quote=The Glorious Mysteries - The Ascension]7. Jesus ascends to take His place at the right hand of the Father.
8. What jubilation there must be amid the angels of heaven at the triumphant entry of Jesus.
[quote=The Glorious Mysteries - The Coronation]1. As Mary enters heaven, the entire court of heaven greets with joy this masterpiece of God’s creation.
2. Mary is crowned by her divine Son as Queen of heaven and earth.
3. More than we can ever know the Hearts of Jesus and Mary overflow with joy at this reunion.
4. Only in heaven will we know the great majesty of that coronation, and the joy it gave to the angels and saints.
5. Even the angels, who by nature are greater than humans, hail Mary as their Queen.
It does not seem sad to me, but Joyous (Acts 1:9-11), and they were told he would return to same way!
The Ascension is a Glorious Mystery of the Rosary. He returns in ten days and that is the Pentecost, so there is a feeling of anticipation.
9 When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.h 10 While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them.*(“http://www.usccb.org/bible/acts/1#52001010-i”) 11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.”
I have and have always had mixed feelings about it. When I was a child, I was always quite despondent about the idea, even though I wasn’t even a Christian. Jesus seemed so very lovely, and it seemed such a sad thing that He was going.
Since I have become a Christian, and moreover learned more about Catholic doctrine, it’s a much more hopeful event, and even one of great joy when I consider the implications. But I still feel that sense of loss and something now missing - and I think perhaps I shall feel that until the day I should become a Catholic.
Being able to visit someone, see their face, brings joy. The apostles would not see Jesus anymore, that is sad. Like the first time a loved one died, and when the casket closed, I realized I would never see their face on earth again, that was sad. Hope is Pentacost, hope is seeing our loved ones again in heaven.
The sadness some of us experience/have experienced at the Ascension is due to us identifying with the human Apostles as they were prior to Pentecost rather than from. It was another Good Friday/Holy Saturday experience for the Apostles. Those that find it a joyous experience are looking at it from the point of view of Heaven. I think it is valuable to see it both ways. As an older adult I see it more from the point of view of Heaven.
I can remember being younger and feeling like that the 10 day period between the Ascension and Pentecost was very sad –and very LONG– because I saw it from the point of view of the disciples of Jesus who did not yet have the fullness of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Perhaps an experience that people could relate to would be having a best friend get married and move to another part of the world. As wonderful as it is for the newly married friend it is something of a loss for the unmarried person left behind. Most likely the unmarried person will move on and develop new relationships and establish a healthy relationship with the now married couple.
Fortunately the Ascension , like Good Friday, is not complete in and of itself.
The Ascension without Pentecost would be terribly sad for those of us here on earth. When we get
I do feel a sort of loneliness or emptiness. Somewhat akin to when my wife travels to the west coast to visit her family and I stay behind; I know she will be back, I know we love each other, but I can’t help but feel how big and empty the house feels when I get back after driving her to the airport.
I can almost palpably feel the emptiness and bewilderment that the apostles must have felt when He left. Then at Pentecost they’re filled with the spirit. The analogy with my wife is when she texts me to tell me she’s arrived safely, and later just to chat about what she’s up to with her sister. It helps reduce the loneliness.
Great blog post from Cardinal Dolan on this today:
"What did the bewildered, scared, confused apostles do upon Our Lord’s Ascension into heaven? They took our Blessed Mother Mary, locked themselves into a room, and . . . prayed! That prayer demanded perseverance, because it took nine days for Jesus to reply. The response He gave to that patient prayer of His Mother and best friends was beyond their most exalted hopes: the Holy Spirit! God the Father and God the Son sent God the Holy Spirit, and, the Church was born on Pentecost.
That’s what prayer can accomplish. The Church was founded by Jesus as a reply to the trusting prayer of His disciples; The Church is in the business of prayer."
I have often wondered at the sadness and loss they must have felt when Mary left them. She was their last physical link to Jesus. I imagine that they often returned to her for encouragement when after arduous journeys. Now they were completely alone in the world.
I am reminded of the little boy who was afraid to be alone in the dark. His mother assured him that Jesus was there with him. He replied, “But I need someone with skin.”