The Ascension and Feet

There are many images of the Lord’s Ascension to heaven.

The one’s I like the most are the medieval depictions which show the Apostles and Mary looking up and all you see above are a pair of lordly Feet.


A commentator, below, provided a link to an excellent reflection.  From the site Ignatius Insight, providing an excerpt from “The Ascension: The Beginning of a New Nearness,” from Joseph Ratzinger’s Images of Hope: Meditations on Major Feasts (Ignatius Press, 2006).  My emphases and comments:

You are surely familiar with all those precious, naïve images in which only the feet of Jesus are visible, sticking out of the cloud, at the heads of the apostles. The cloud, for its part, is a dark circle on the perimeter; on the inside, however, blazing light. It occurs to me that precisely in the apparent naïveté of this representation something very deep comes into view. All we see of Christ in the time of history are his feet and the cloud. His feet—what are they?

We are reminded, first of all, of a peculiar sentence from the Resurrection account in Matthew’s Gospel, where it is said that the women held onto the feet of the Risen Lord and worshipped him. As the Risen One, he towers over earthly proportions. We can still only touch his feet; and we touch them in adoration. Here we could reflect that we come as worshippers, following his trail, close to his footsteps. Praying, we go to him; praying, we touch him, even if in this world, so to speak, always only from below, only from afar, always only on the trail of his earthly steps. At the same time it becomes clear that we do not find the footprints of Christ when we look only below, when we measure only footprints and want to subsume faith in the obvious. The Lord is movement toward above, and only in moving ourselves, in looking up and ascending, do we recognize him.

When we read the Church Fathers something important is added. The correct ascent of man occurs precisely where he learns, in humbly turning toward his neighbor, to bow very deeply, down to his feet, down to the gesture of the washing of feet. It is precisely humility, which can bow low, that carries man upward. This is the dynamic of ascent that the feast of the Ascension wants to teach us.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Alan Aversa says:

    Did Christ really physically levitate in His ascension? I thought heaven didn’t have a physical location with respect to the earth, or does it?

  2. Charles E Flynn says:

    On the Ascension and Presence of Jesus Christ
    (Joseph Ratzinger comments on “precious, naïve images in which only the feet of Jesus are visible, sticking out of the cloud, at the heads of the apostles.”}

    [Thanks for that link!]

  3. thickmick says:

    lol. Happy Ascension Thursday, Father…BTW I got ya on that Novena, as well.

  4. jesusthroughmary says:

    @ Alan – He must be physically somewhere, right?
    @ Fr. Z – How do you feel about Dali’s “Ascension of Christ”?

  5. James Joseph says:

    The lack of feet is one of my biggest peeves about the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass being celebrated ad absurdium

  6. tilden says:

    @Alan, I will not link it so I don’t get caught by the filter, but google “Where is Jesus’ body after the Ascension?”, the post from New Theological Movement tries to explain it.

  7. AnAmericanMother says:

    “How beauteous are their feet who stand on Zion’s hill . . . ”

    An excellent anthem by C.V.V. Stanford.

  8. Hey, just this morning I posted from Sedulius’ Carmen Paschale!

    Illi autem lætis cernentes vultibus, altas
    Ire super nubes Dominum, tractusque coruscos
    Vestigiis calcare suis, veneranter adorant,
    Sidereasque vias alacri sub corde reportant,
    Quas cunctos doceant….

    “But they with rejoicing faces, seeing high
    Above the clouds the Lord walk, treading the place
    with His footsteps flashing, adore reverently.
    In their hearts they carry back the star-roads eagerly
    which they would teach to all.”

  9. mike cliffson says:

    There’s biblical stuff about feet all over, footwashing….
    Only a few days ago a group of my students were singing , so we’d been going into them, From handel,”How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and Bring glad tidings of good things.” (Isaiah 52:7 My memory of it rather fits this post. (there’s several versions on youtube)

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