ASCENSION! (a Breakfast Eucharist at St David’s little church on the North Gower Marsh)

ascension dali    AFTER THE atomic bombs of 1945 on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the artist, Salvador Dali was deeply disturbed by the possibilities for evil and destruction that science afforded. “Since that time,” said Dali, “the atom has become my favourite subject of reflection. Many of the landscapes painted over this period express the great fear I felt at the news of that explosion. I was applying my paranoiac-critical method to the exploration of that world. I want to see and understand the power and hidden laws of things so as to gain control over them. In order to penetrate into the marrow of reality I have the genial intuition of having an extraordinary weapon available to me — mysticism, the deep intuition of what is, an immediate communion with the whole, absolute vision through the grace of truth, by divine grace.” I guess only an artist could use language like that!

Anyway, Dali painted the Ascension in 1958 but it is part of series of Christ paintings that he said were a response to a cosmic dream he’d had in 1950, a dream which he said was in vivid colour. It is certainly a mystical painting. Christ’s ascension, rather than a literal rising into the clouds from the top of a mountain, is for Dali about Christ’s passing not from the material world into the heavenly world, but into the very centre of the atom. Christ is not leaving the world, he is entering its atomic structure. The ascension is not so much a movement up and away but a movement out from the singular flesh and being and into the very core of all flesh and being. Notice that though Christ’s body is resurrection pure, beautiful, healed of the wounds of torture and death, his hands and fingers are extended, claw-like, in anxiety and pain. This passing is no easy passing because Christ must not only go through the horror of First Century crucifixion, which we know he already has, but through the modern horror of nuclear and atomic manipulation by humankind to evil ends. Christ has conquered death and a broken world is being restored and yet humankind is still hell bent on destroying the world and everything in it. Dali’s wife and muse, Gala, is above the atom, gazing at Christ’s face and weeping. As usual, Dali does not let us gaze on Christ’s face. But the muse has mystical insight; she does see the face of Christ and it makes her cry. Art, beauty, feminine compassion, the antidote to the masculine war games of atomic bombing, can only look on and weep, crying for the hopelessness of the progress-crazed human condition, but moved also to tears of joy in the realization that the Cosmic Christ is in all and, though his struggle is potentially eternal, he will never give up. Not only that, but the mystic one, who gazes on the face of Christ, will be drawn by the force of Christ’s movement into the same atomic portal into which he goes. Christ does not leave us orphaned, he has gone to prepare a place for us and he will come and take us to himself. The Holy Spirit overarching the atom and Christ links the weeping woman with the atomic Christ, her head is the Spirit’s head, her body is the Spirit’s body. I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. There is no separation between the ascended Christ and the mystic. The mystic is he or she who prays through the Spirit in us. If you go for a walk and just notice, with wonder, the beauty of a flower, the song of a bird, the texture of a leaf, the Christ in the eye of the stranger or known one, or even just the material in the concrete slab you walk on, then you are, in that moment, mystic!

Ok. What am I trying to say? Huh?

I don’t know what happened on that mountain in any literal way. But I don’t think it is important to know how it works. The ascension is about truth far deeper than historical or scientific facts or any other kind of knowledge humankind can work out for itself. If Christ stayed on the mountain, then by now the whole world would be at his feet worshipping him. But that would be meaningless. Christ would be no more than an idol onto which all the world would project its collective and individual responsibility. This would be abeyance to supreme power but it would not be love. Christ’s purpose, Christ’s being, Christ’s message, Christ’s new commandment, is love. Christ ascends from the idol so that he comes to us in every cell, every atom, every particle, in the very DNA of the universe. This is how much Christ loves us. Well, he loves us more than that but I think I’ve stretched my capacity for language enough now and it’s nearly time for breakfast. Blessed Ascension to you!


~ by Fr Tim Ardouin on May 25, 2017.

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