Today is Ascension Day, celebrating Jesus' ascension into the heavens, as noted in today's "portion of Scripture appointed for the Epistle" (as the 1662 rubric
says), beginning at Acts i. 1. (which was the subject of study two weeks ago when I visited "O Street"
For the Epistle. Acts i. 1.
THE former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom be had chosen: to whom also he shewed him self alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: and, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judæa, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld. he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.
I clearly have never been the Epistler on Ascension Day, because I have never read this out loud before. (To tell the truth, I've rarely been to church on Ascension Day -- it just sort of tended to be lost, and I am really glad that Fr. Daniel has brought the focus back at St. Bartholomew's.) But Fr. Daniel also wanted help for the 10 AM Morning Prayer + Holy Communion service so I volunteered.
Deacon Ed, who read the Gospel, noted that I had a much longer reading, and it was true. But it also felt a little odd to read this letter -- my mind's eye kept flicking over to movie scenes where someone is writing a letter with voiceover reading the content of the letter. I wonder if anyone in the small group present this morning noted it.
But in any event, before the service I asked about lighting the candles. Fr. Daniel said "Light them ALL up!" with Deacon Ed noting that this would be the last time because we would not be using the Paschal candle after today. And in fact, Fr. Daniel directed me to carry the candle to the spot by the organ where it will reside and extinguish it. It felt odd, because it seems like it was almost yesterday I was carrying that candle, lit for the first time, into the church on Easter Even.