What does Ascension Thursday teach us about the end of an academic year?

“God mounts his throne amid shouts of joy;
the Lord, amid trumpet blasts.
Sing praise to God, sing praise;
sing praise to our king, sing praise.” - Psalm 47

The integration of our liturgical year into the academic calendar forever provides an opportunity to see the meaning in the moment. This can be quite a challenge for all of us to process - What is happening right now? Why is this happening? What is the purpose of this experience or set of circumstances? 

Tomorrow is Ascension Thursday, and it only took me over a decade to sit down long enough, and well, after asking God to make it more evident to me as to why I can’t seem to find something to write about, that if we follow his lead, we can see what it all means. 

Jesus ascended to heaven. Our seniors are moving on as well. We are coming to the end of another academic year. What does Ascension Thursday teach us about the end of an academic year?

Well before delving into the significance of the Ascension, I should also add that the school year is not over yet. And our liturgical lifestyles are still moving towards Pentecost. But this penultimate occasion prepares us for what is to come, and Jesus tells us that he needs to go where he is going so we can get there too! The Holy Spirit will be the instrument of our sanctification, our advocate and guide, and Jesus’ physical departure is the precondition for His perpetual presence in our lives. His wisdom is far beyond our wisdom, because even when we say something like: “Hey, Jesus, why can’t you just be here to make it all better?”, He responds: “Hey there, I am still here, and it is already made better!” 

I propose to you therefore that each academic year is like a penultimate, a yearly repetition marking that we are on the precipice of an outpouring far beyond what we perceive to be possible. What is coming our way, when we finish this year-long dedication to the habit of study and sacramental formation in the life of grace? The glorification of our humanity! 

Saint Leo the Great’s sermon on the Ascension should be read in the same way we understand the academic year: 

Beloved, the days which passed between the Lord’s resurrection and his ascension were by no means uneventful; during them great sacramental mysteries were confirmed, great truths revealed. In those days the fear of death with all its horrors was taken away, and the immortality of both body and soul affirmed. It was then that the Lord breathed on all his apostles and filled them with the Holy Spirit; and after giving the keys of the kingdom to blessed Peter, whom he had chosen and set above all the others, he entrusted him with the care of his flock.

During these days the Lord joined two of his disciples as their companion on the road, and by chiding them for their timidity and hesitant fears he swept away all the clouds of our uncertainty. Their lukewarm hearts were fired by the light of faith and began to burn within them as the Lord opened up the Scriptures. And as they shared their meal with him, their eyes were opened in the breaking of bread, opened far more happily to the sight of their own glorified humanity than were the eyes of our first parents to the shame of their sin.

Throughout the whole period between the resurrection and ascension, God’s providence was at work to instill this one lesson into the hearts of the disciples, to set this one truth before their eyes, that our Lord Jesus Christ, who was truly born, truly suffered and truly died, should be recognized as truly risen from the dead. The blessed apostles together with all the others had been intimidated by the catastrophe of the cross, and their faith in the resurrection had been uncertain; but now they were so strengthened by the evident truth that when their Lord ascended into heaven, far from feeling any sadness, they were filled with great joy.

Indeed that blessed company had a great and inexpressible cause for joy when it saw man’s nature rising above the dignity of the whole heavenly creation, above the ranks of angels, above the exalted status of archangels. Nor would there be any limit to its upward course until humanity was admitted to a seat at the right hand of the eternal Father, to be enthroned at last in the glory of him to whose nature it was wedded in the person of the Son.

That is our purpose here: we are forming our humanity in the hope that it will rise to where it is meant to be! 

I want to thank all of you - students, parents, and teachers - for another amazingly formative  academic year. 

- Derek Tremblay, Headmaster