Wednesday evening and Thursday this week saw the Christian celebration of Ascension Day (the start of Ascensiontide, the final ten days of the 50-day long Eastertide) coincide with Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim celebrations marking the end of the month of Ramadan.
While there are profound differences in how Christians and Muslims view Jesus, both faith traditions claim that he ascended bodily to heaven, from where he will return, to take up a judicial reign of justice and peace.
Ascensiontide is the Christian expression recalling Jesus ascending to the throne prepared for him at the right hand of God, to be seated there until God subjugates his enemies under his anointed one, establishing the heavenly reign on earth through this faithful anointed one who will judge the nations. In this, Jesus fulfils the intention begun in David, king of Jerusalem (see Psalm 2 and Psalm 110), of whom it was claimed God bestowed the title ‘my begotten son’.
Ascensiontide is, for Christians, a period set aside for prayer that this future reign of justice and peace might not only come soon but also be anticipated, felt, in the present. That we, who acknowledge Jesus on the throne, might be empowered as peacemakers, in our troubled world. That the nations, and indeed the whole cosmos, might be brought into harmony—not a uniformity, but an interdependent diversity.
Peace be with you, today. Peace be between you and your neighbours, of all faiths and none. Peace be on the holy city of Jerusalem, and on the whole human family. Lord, have mercy on us.