The Paschal Mystery: Letting Go and Trusting God
The Feast of the Ascension - whether it is celebrated on a Thursday to mark the end of the forty days Jesus appeared to his followers after the resurrection or on the 7th Sunday of Easter - is still a threshold at the heart of thePaschal Mystery.
Ronald Rolheiser, in his book The Holy Longing, describes the Paschal Mystery “as a process of transformation within which we are given both new life and a new spirit. It begins with suffering and death, moves on to the reception of new life, spends some time grieving the old and adjusting to the new, and finally, only after the old life has been truly let go of, is new spirit given for the life we are already living.”
Rolheiser outlines this single process in five steps:
1. Good Friday – loss of life, death
2. Easter Sunday – reception of new life
3. Forty Days – adjustment to the new and grieving the old
4. Ascension – letting go the old and letting it bless you
5. Pentecost – reception of the new spirit for the new life one is already living
At any point in our lives, we may experience many deaths and thresholds we must cross if we are to find the new spirit for the new life we are already living. Who among us has not lived through suffering and many deaths just in the last two years: the loss of health, wealth, or wholeness; the end of what we thought was “normal,” our sense of safety, security, spirituality; the peace of the earth itself and of its people, maybe even in our own hearts; our changing relationships with God and others, perhaps the real death of loved ones?
Death is beyond our control. New life is a gift we are given. Ours is the work of adjustment to the new reality that has been born in us. We must take time to remember the old, to grieve its loss and to lift up the blessing it was so that we can let it go into the waiting arms of God. Then God will give us a new spirit to embrace fully and joyfully the new life we have already begun.
As Jesus told Mary Magdalene that beautiful day beside the empty tomb: “Do not cling to me Mary,” not as I was, not as you knew me. I have so much joy and life to share with you now, a new and deeper relationship, the gift of my own spirit living within you as my home. Let go and trust the grace of this moment!