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Dear Friends :-
I write this letter on Ascension Day, having just come back from a Communion service at Finchale Priory. Finchale is such a wonderful place. Before the Reformation it was the place where the Monks from Durham Priory went for their “rest and recuperation”. And even today, as a ruined building, you can see why. Even though, at the service, we were in the, now `open air’, Nave of the Priory, there was still a very special feel to it. Yes, our Creator was good to us when He gave us peaceful places in which to reflect upon our Lord Jesus as we go about our lives. And that is particularly true on days like Ascension Day, the day when we remember Our Lord being taken back into Heaven and leaving us a few days later with His Holy Spirit – at Pentecost – to support us. For, as we know, our work in the Lord is a task which can be difficult in the world of today, a world in which we need quiet places in which to reflect and put our task into perspective.
Ascension Day is sadly one of the more neglected of all Christian Festivals in this country. But it is one which still has great significance. In days gone by, as I well know, schoolchildren had a day’s holiday on Ascension Day! But not so today! Perhaps it is because, as it falls 40 days after the Day of Resurrection, it always occurs on a Thursday – a difficult day to have `off’ to go to church in today’s world. Sad that, as Ascension Day marks the day in the Church’s year when we celebrate the day the risen Christ being taken bodily up to Heaven – returning to the Father from whom He came and from where He is now ever present and ever living to all those who love Him! Yes, Ascension Day IS a significant day for us – in three distinct ways. Firstly, it marks a new beginning. Jesus promised us during His earthly Ministry that He would always be with us – even when His earthly days were over. Ascension Day is the reminder of that. Secondly, it is an end. At the Ascension, Jesus’ victory over death was completed. Remember how He said to His followers, “when I am lifted up from the earth I will draw all people to myself”. Ascension Day sets that in motion. And thirdly it is a sign that Jesus is an ever-present friend to us — in good times as well as in bad. He is the one whom we always find in our hearts and minds whenever we need or seek Him.
As the angels said to the disciples who were looking up into space after Jesus’ Ascension, “Why stand there gazing into Heaven. The same Jesus who has gone into Heaven will come the same way and take you to be with Him”. Ascension Day reminds us that we can say “Come, Lord Jesus” to that, at any time!
Patrick Holroyd ——— Licensed Lay Minister (Reader)