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The Ascension

From the September 1951 issue of The Christian Science Journal


We all knew he was different that day.
We had known him restful, with a captured rest
Seized in the heat of conflict; known him gay
And joyful, when the overmastering zest
Of working for the Father overcame
The cross's shadow; we had felt his power,
Given from above, leap like a mighty flame
To blast the secret root of evil's flower.
And lately we had seen his loosening hold
On temporal things—a fining, an ascent
Little by little; never human mold
Fashioned each subtly changing lineament.
But that day he was different; his peace
Rode like a stately ship on a still sea;
His power flowed to a fettered world's release;
His joy outshone the sun in majesty.
This was his very self—a self too great
For any mortal depict. Were our eyes
Bemused, or did his outline vacillate
And tremble to dissolve in Paradise?
And when he spoke, his mandates seemed to spring
Direct within our hearts; the vibrant air
Shaped no such potency of offering.
We gained the will, if not the wisdom, there
In those sweet moments.
Then, as daylight died
In scented dusk, he raised his scar-healed hands
In blessing; and his act exemplified
His life of love. No human tongue commands
Language to limn that summary supreme.
Here were the homely meals at Bethany;
Here was the well of Sychar's living stream;
Here the calm tread on waves of Galilee.
The loaves and fishes. Cana's festal wine,
Spiritual health destroying human pain,
The conquered tomb, the affluence divine—
All, in his act of blessing, shone again.

Perhaps our dullard hearts could scarce accept
Such ecstasy of service; human sense
Clouded and swooned, and even would have slept
At this white focus of omnipotence.
But soon the clouds dispersed, the normal scene
Swung into vision, as it was before;
Save that where that beloved form had been
Was nothing....
Nothing but the whispering floor
Of grass, with lengthened shadows, and the stones,
And men, astonished, under the golden sky.
An absence—yet the presence that atones
For earthly loss with heaven's serene reply.
"Lo, I am with you alway," he had said:
And, strangely, so he was—more vitally
Than when the veil, however fine-spun, spread
Its grosser texture of mortality.
His voice, untrammeled by the thrall of speech,
Breathed gracious and unutterable things;
Even his form and gesture seemed to each
Urgent within the heart's most secret springs.

So dark fell; and the myriad lamps of night
Spangled the sky with glory. None could say
How long we stayed in superstellar light
Tasting immortal joys; nor by what way
With buoyant and imponderable feet
We reached the city. When we dared to speak,
We sought to plan how swiftly we could meet
Mankind's gaunt need of Christ they blindly seek.
"To every creature, preach"—the tortured earth
Stretched out dumb hands for pity and surcease;
How could we stay who knew Christ's hidden worth
And bore the chalice of the sad world's peace?

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