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The Ascension

Lou Kaloger

13 Kaloger Dali

 

The painting on the left is The Ascension of Christ by Salvador Dali. It was completed in 1958 and it is part of the Pérez Simón Collection. I like it. In fact, I like it a lot. I like the crazy yellow "sunflower" shape in the center. I like the depiction of the angel gazing out from behind the glowing red clouds. I like the subtle reference to the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove. I especially like the way Dali positions Christ's body. In many ways it is the counterpart to Dali's Christ of Saint John of the Cross painted a few years before. In Christ of Saint John of the Cross, Jesus is portrayed from the viewpoint of the Father. In The Ascension of Christ, Jesus is portrayed from the viewpoint of the disciples. One is a portrait of humiliation. The other painting is a portrait of exaltation. Both are crucial to redemption.

The other thing I like about The Ascension painting is the perspective. It's all wrong: it bends and it twists. Jesus is going up at one angle, the big yellow "sunflower" shape is at a second angle, the angelic figure is moving at a third, and the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove is at a fourth. What's not being portrayed is a linear trajectory from the earth to sky. What's not being portrayed is the notion of a heaven that is far away and at the other side of the universe. Rather, I'm given a portrait of something that is strangely closer than I might first think.   

It's funny. As I read in the first chapter of Paul's letter to the Ephesians, I see language that is similar. I'm told that the Father "raised Christ from the dead" and "seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms." At the same time, I'm told that I too am "raised with Christ" and seated with Him in this same spot. It's not that earth is "here" and heaven is way over "there." Instead, Christ is revealed as the point of contact between two worlds and I am again given a portrait of something that is strangely closer than I might first think.

Not some day, but presently. Not eventually, but now. And then something happens. Something small, and minor, And trifling, and trivial, And immediate, and silly. And I forget Dali's painting. And I forget Paul's words. And I forget where I am.