This week, Ascension Thursday marks the end of the Paschal Cycle for the year. It is odd, because we’ve not sung “Chrystos Voskres” in church together this year, yet from Thursday we return to the greeting “Glory to Jesus Christ.”
Time does not stop for pandemics!
During the month of May, we’ve been highlighting icons of the Mother of God for our prayer and meditation. Iconography has been established as a form of visual theology in our Orthodox Tradition, in order to emphasize the sacredness of created matter; because of Christ’s humanity, God could be evoked through the representations of life and sacred history on materials of the earth (wood, natural paints, etc.) The style is symbolic to speak to us simultaneously of the combined reality of human and divine in Christ. For some periods in history, icons argued, as it were, for Christ’s genuine humanity, when many doubted that Christ could have been an ordinary person.
But it may be that, for the disciples, the most difficult notion would be that their friend, who discussed issues of the day, ate, drank wine, attended weddings, was God.
Extraordinary as He was, how could He be God?
When reflecting on the ascension, we can imagine how this event might have helped the followers of the man Jesus, to fully recognize His unity with God—God—the one God of all creation; the God of Abraham, David and all the Hebrew texts.
Paradoxically, Christ’s ascension—that physical departure—marked the understanding of God’s presence in us and in all creation. The teachings of the man could become the life force of His followers, including us. Every being has God within them, but we decide to acknowledge this presence or not. When we open ourselves to love in the generosity of Christ, we take part in the Trinity: the community of Love.
That’s why our church communities are so important. We come together to celebrate God in us and among us. Yet God is present in all caring and loving actions, thoughts, and prayers. Through Christ and the scriptures we know that ‘God with us’ does not give us control over life, nor does it mean that we will not suffer or die. God did not create the pandemic and God does not make it disappear. Embracing God in us means that we are never alone in these times of strife. With God we can find strength and peace in any circumstances.
And so, as our economy restarts, despite the continuing dangers of the pandemic, let’s remember that every person’s “care”, whether they isolate, respect social distancing, or work on the front lines, every action of caring is an embrace of Christ. Keeping our places of worship closed is how we demonstrate our care for our human community. At this time, opening our churches would endanger our people and our society. Our parish family can stay together apart and in prayer join the tide of love that reaches out to all people and the environment we inhabit.