When involved in parish ministry several years ago, I often shared with someone grieving that just as their loved one transitioned to new life, they too, were in the midst of transitioning. Often the transition takes place through tears, sleepless nights, sadness, memories and questions. Life on earth, dying and new spiritual life intertwine. Life on earth seems easier to comprehend as it is right before us. Physical death entails letting go of the body and transitioning to a new spiritual life. For the person who is dying life changes, for those who grieve, life also changes.
A sympathy card I saw several years ago articulates well what it means to transition: “They whom we love and lose are no longer where they were before. They are now wherever we are.” The quote is St. John Chrysostom’s. Death, whether physical death or dying to various parts of our lives, means that life changes. The Spirit of God remains with us through all of these changes as we ascend to new life. Our invitation is to stay open to embracing ascension in our lives in whatever form it takes.
In the Gospel of Mark from the Christian Scriptures we see the disciples living without Jesus’s physical presence. The disciples went about their lives knowing that even though Jesus was no longer with them physically, Jesus’ spirit remained. The same? No. Different? Yes. New possibilities? Yes! Perhaps at times we firmly plant our feet on the ground and only want what we know. Openness to the Spirit of God takes us to new understanding in the midst of transitioning. This is true for physical dying, and for other changes in our lives which involve dying to various aspects of ourselves: control to compassion, callousness to sympathy, disagreement to collaboration, egotistical to humility, exclusion to inclusively, hate to love.
Embracing ascension involves taking our feet off the ground while trusting that God’s presence is integrally and beautifully part of dying, ascending and living.
Blessings and peace,