|The Ascension, by Albrecht Duerer|
There are a number of ways to illustrate the Ascension. Most do not satisfy us, much as the story itself does not satisfy us. As a lifelong reader of superhero comics, Father A. shies away from the image of Jesus flying superman-style into the clouds. It was, we do not doubt, a compelling image for the ancients. But to us, now, it seems ... well, comic-booky. Fine for an imaginary Kryptonian, but not really mysterious enough for God. Infra dig, as the prep school kids say.
In the church we attended as a child, there was an exceptionally ill-advised Ascension, hung against the west wall. Jesus, in a very full robe, stands in the pinkish clouds, surrounded by the little disembodied heads of infants, each with wings sprouting from their necks. Cherubim, of course. But creepy little guillotined cherubim. The painting was known among the faithful as "Severed Heads."
|From a breviary|
It's a sight gag, at one level. There;'s no denying that it's funny, if only because it is so unique. We chuckle every time we see it.
But at another level, it is a way of making the image less absurd; we do not have to imagine Jesus gradually disappearing from view like a rocket, or surrounded by poofy pastel clouds and angels bearing Counter-Reformation drapery.
At the deepest level, a "feet-only" Ascension helps us to focus our attention upon the wounds of the Crucified, and upon the astonished expressions of the Apostles. (In fact, the great oversight of Dali's version is that the Apostles are left out.)