Tag Archives: Joy

Monday Musing: Ascension

Then [Jesus] led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hand, he blessed them.  While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven.  – Luke 24:50-51 NRSV

Ascension.  Another weird story in Christian scriptures that I’d rather ignore.  Jesus – the risen Christ – carried into heaven.  Forty days after Easter.  A Christian holy day.  My guess is many Protestants don’t realize it’s come and gone.

So when looking up a quilt fabric store on the internet the other day I was surprised to discover the following announcement in large, yellow letters at their top of their web page:

Store is CLOSED Thur. May 30th for Ascension Day  

Really?  Here in Iowa?!!  I’ll try to remember to ask about it when (if) I get there.

Ascension was not acknowledged in any way, shape, or form by my home congregation this year.  If I’d been preaching last week, I probably wouldn’t have mentioned it either.

But our local Roman Catholic church marked the day at weekend masses.
And the priest did something I like to do when preaching.
He quoted from a contemporary text.
Not a commentary.  Not an overtly Christian or specifically religious book.
A work of fiction published in my lifetime:
Jonathan Livingston Seagull: a story by Richard Bach.

They came in the evening, then, and found Jonathan gliding peaceful and alone through his beloved sky.  The two gulls that appeared at his wings were pure as starlight, and the glow from them was gentle and friendly in the high night air.  But most lovely of all was the skill with which they flew, their wingtips moving a precise and constant inch from his own.

Without a word, Jonathan put them to his test a test that no gull had ever passed.  He twisted his wings, slowed to a single mile per hour above stall.  The two radiant birds slowed with him, smoothly, locked in position.  They knew about slow flying.

He folded his wings, rolled and dropped in a dive to a hundred ninety miles per hour.  They dropped with him, streaking down in flawless formation.

At last he turned that speed straight up into a long vertical slow-roll.  They rolled with him, smiling.

He recovered to level flight and was quiet for a time before he spoke. “Very well,” he said, “who are you?

“We’re from your Flock, Jonathan. We are your brothers.”  The words were strong and calm.  “We’ve come to take you higher, to take you home.”

Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull: a story, (c) 1970

Do you know the story?  Jonathan, a seagull, had been cast off from the flock.  He didn’t fly simply to find food and eat.  He flew for the shear joy of flying.  And that was unthinkable, unacceptable, intolerable.  So he was alone.

And now he is not.

That’s not where the priest went with the story.  But it is what has caught my imagination after re-reading the book on Sunday.  Though physically alone in a particular time and place, Jonathan was not alone in pursuing a dream of perfect flight.  He had kindred out there somewhere.  One day, they found him.

When you’re feeling cast off from the crowd (whether a little or lot),
may you know you are not alone.
May your kindred find you – or you find them –
and together pursue a dream that brings beauty and joy into the world.

Monday Musing: Joyful Noise

“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.”
– Psalm 100:1 NRSV

John (my husband) sings with the Magnificat Choir of Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart Catholic parish.  They led the music at the 10:30 a.m. Mass yesterday, so I worshiped there.  The music was beautiful, joyful noise unto the Lord.

DSC01938 (3)

My favorite hymn of the day was Ubi Caritas.  Here are the refrain and the first two (of five) verses.

Refrain:
*Ubi caritas est vera, est vera;
Deus ibi est, Deus ibi est.

1.
The love of Christ joins us together.
Let us rejoice in him,
and in our love and care for all
now love God in return.

2.
In true communion let us gather.
May all divisions cease
and in their place be Christ the Lord,
our risen Prince of Peace.

*Where there is true charity, God is present.

Text and Music by Bob Hurd, based on Ubi Caritas, 9th century.

But that wasn’t the only music of the day!

The joy culminated with The Pines of Rome by Respighi played by the Des Moines Symphony Orchestra.  They let out all the stops; it seemed every member of the orchestra was on stage.  (Except the regular Concertmaster.  I’m guessing he had a family obligation not be missed, something like a college graduation.)

DSC01940

In the final movement, six additional musicians appeared.  They were at the edge of the audience, 25 rows up, each juggling an instrument, music, and a music stand with its own miniature light.  Though they were as unobtrusive as possible, those of us above the 25th row couldn’t help but notice.  The three on the right turned on their lights.  As they lifted their instruments – a trombone and two trumpets – the three on the left – another trombone and two more trumpets – turned on their lights.  Soon all had joined the orchestra in playing grand, glorious music.

May you have a song in your heart,
a smile on your lips,
and nothing but joy at your fingertips!
– Irish Blessing