Over the centuries, there have been, some, but not many, tales of those who were taken bodily from this world, without experiencing death as we humans are used to understanding it. The references are usually slanting. Nimrod - a mighty hunter - 'was not'. Moses. Elijah's passage was seen and reported. Many of these people are in at least some respects expected to 'come again'. There is the tradition that Our Lady was taken up into heaven. Legends of the Grail speak of two of the three who completed the quest being 'taken up'.
What the disciples actually saw or experienced is going to take us rapidly into never never land. We can't know and from the records can only suppose. St. Luke mentions a cloud. It is like the record of the transfiguration however. The apostles here are putting into words an experience which, by its very nature we can't match except mystically.
To me the best way to think of the feast is to use the Ignatian Method for oneself, to apply one's imagination to the bare bones of the story - and to imagine oneself with the disciples - what one might be feeling what this experience means in our own lives.
The disciples had after all
been living through a most peculiar and
For that time it may have been that they felt unutterably special, unutterably graced. That he loved them as he loved no others. Here they had had the blessing of his presence, his walking with them, and his personal teaching. The inner meaning of spiritual truths they had heard all their lives was explained to them.
Now, I don't know if it was so for them, but I do know that most of us mortals, time hampered as we are, have a sense of exclusive rights when when we find ourselves singled out and loved. How it was for the disciples I don't know. But I find myself hooked on the words, "and as he blessed them, he withdrew from them'.
Of course it was and is true that they were, as they felt themselves to be, unutterably special, unutterably graced. Unique, and uniquely treasured. Yet as he blessed them in this special way he withdrew from them.
In that moment the heart of
him became, I think, clear to them. For
as they were, unutterably special, unutterably
loved, so was the person
next to them, uniquely valued and uniquely loved.
That same attention our
Lord give St. Peter, he gives to St. John. Unique,
full, complete, and
tailor-made. That same love to every living being.
That uniquely individual
For in leaving he gave himself to them more completely. In ceasing to walk by their physical side, he began to walk by the side of every human being in the whole world, leaving his physical limitation he was able now to express that love which by its immortality and by its infinite nature is never lessened, but rather increases as it is shared.
Here, in this moment, as they
gaze on Him who blesses them, as they
gaze on him who leaves them, there is neither
protest or grief. No desire
to build tabernacles, or to stay rooted to the spot.
No wailing, no beseeching,
He had taken them to Bethany - the place where they had spent so much time together, spent the night with Martha, Mary and Lazarus. Home base for the Jerusalem excursions. That's where we start too, where the friendship and the love is. Where the blessing begins.
leaving them he became part of them, in leaving
time and space
he became intimately part of all times, all
places. Closer than breath
itself. No wonder there was no protest, and no
worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with
was taken up into Heaven.