When I was a child, the holy days of obligation were treated like Sundays. Everyone went to mass and for those in Catholic schools, it was a day off. Naturally, we looked forward to them as little respites in the otherwise gruelling school year. The feast of the Ascension was always welcomed because it happened in May, close to the beginning of summer vacation and was always celebrated on a Thursday, close to the weekend. Many years have passed. The Catholic world is very different and so is how we mark the Ascension. Now it is incorporated into the Sunday schedule and comes and goes without much notice. However, it remains a very important event, one that sets the stage for Pentecost, the birth of the church. In the days after the resurrection, Jesus continually warned his friends that his time on earth was drawing to a close but most importantly, that he would never leave them “orphans.” Instead, he promised to send his Holy Spirit who would dwell with us until the end of time. One day, quite to their dismay and shock, Jesus left the apostles, ascending in a cloud, as they looked on from below. The scene always reminds me of the Wizard of Oz, ascending in a hot air balloon. How strange it must have been! Reflection on the ascension continues to hold symbolic meaning for anyone on the spiritual journey. Connected as we are to the Paschal mystery, it is an opportunity to reflect on the things in my own life that need to ascend before a new Pentecost can happen. Even though I have worked through pain and suffering, have experienced the joy of resurrecting, I nonetheless want to cling onto the highs of the mountaintop. I know I need to move on but I stubbornly refuse. Ascension reminds me that new life isn’t new until I allow the old to disappear in the clouds. Only then can there be a spacious place in my heart for new life and the deep-down joy that only the Spirit can provide.