Ascension day can be a very confusing experience. For many people the imagery and artwork that accompany this feast does not help to clear the confusion. Picturing the feet of Jesus beneath a cloud that is taking him away from us does not help.
Whenever an image is encountered in the scriptures, our first question should be: where have I heard this before? The authors of scripture draw from their own experiences of meditating upon the Hebrew Scriptures which has given them an encyclopedia of imagery and concepts to expand their worldviews. Imagery such as being caught up in a cloud or ascending have been used many times already in the story of the bible. Moses often disappeared into clouds when he was in the presence of the Lord.
The image of ascending to a high place is likewise common. On the opening pages of Genesis the Garden in Eden is described as being a high place (from which all the rivers in the world descend). Mount Zion is called the true pole of the earth, and the highest of all the mountains, even though the neighbouring Mount of Olives is higher. The Hebrew authors knew their geography but they were using a different kind of language to describe these realities.
First Reading ‡ Acts 1:1-11
Why are you standing here looking into the sky? Jesus has been taken into heaven.
Responsorial ‡ Psalm 46:2-3.6-9
God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.
Second Reading ‡ Hebrews 9:24-28.10:19-23
Christ has entered heaven.
Gospel ‡ Luke 24:46-53
While blessing them, he was taken to heaven.