23 March 2008
Today is Easter Sunday in the Western Christian tradition, celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. It is a celebration of the physical resurrection from the dead of the crucified Christ, Jesus of Nazareth. It sets into motion a period of celebration, forty days until the Feast of the Ascension and fifty until Pentecost (a/k/a Whitsunday). At the Ascension, Jesus ascended bodily to Heaven. At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles.
This entry concerns the Ascension. Christian theology asserts that Jesus ascended bodily into Heaven. Now, he is not the only one. According to Catholic theology (from Vatican II in 1950), Mary, Jesus's mother, also ascended bodily into Heaven (a/k/a the Assumption). In the Jewish scriptures (a/k/a the Old Testament), two others purportedly ascended to Heaven: Enoch and Elijah. Enoch apparently just disappeared, whereas Elijah was witnessed ascending in a chariot of fire: "As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind." II KINGS 2:11.
Now, the key word here is 'bodily'. It is essential to Biblical and Christian faith. Sine qua non.
Now the thought: We denizens of the 20th and 21st centuries have learned several important physical laws they weren't aware of when the scriptures were written, one of them being that matter can not travel faster than the speed of light—and certainly not a human body. So, on a generous reading of Holy Scripture and physical law assuming Jesus's and Mary's bodies to be traveling at the speed of light, they are currently some "2,000 light years from home" (apologies to Mick and the boys). Elijah and Enoch are, presumably, somewhat further out.
Thus endeth the lesson.