Old Royal Naval College Chapel

Ascension Day

May 13th 1999

He ascended into heaven

 

Whenever we say anything about God, that he is Creator, Father, Son, Holy Spirit, or that he came down from heaven, we have to advise our hearers that the language we are using is bound to be analogical.

Analogy is the way that we use to describe in everyday terms things which are otherwise difficult to understand. So, for example, when Hamlet says to Horatio "methinks I see my father" and Horatio, who has come to tell Hamlet that he has actually seen the Hamlet's dead father as a ghost, is reassured when Hamlet replies, "In my mind's eye, Horatio" to the latter's alarmed question "Where, my lord?"

Now, the mind hasn't got an eye; and Hamlet wasn't really seeing his father in the way that Horation had. That comes a bit later in the play. But you and I have no difficulty in understanding what he meant by those words "In my mind's eye" because we understand what an analogy is, and its use.

Analogy works by comparing like with like, but without suggesting that the two things being compared are identical. It's the simplest and most succinct way of portraying the truth and we use it in almost every other sentence in everyday speech. "I see what you mean"; "I get your point"; "The telephone is a lifeline" and "Our boss is a broken reed" are just a few examples of analogies.

So it's not surprising that God teaches us by analogy; and a good example of this is the Ascension which we celebrate today.

To understand why the Ascension took the particular form that it did we need to consider what it was that the Apostles needed to be helped to understand in the wake of the Resurrection.

And as a result:

Well, if anyone can think of a better, or you might say a more economic way of getting these truths across it would be interesting to have suggestions. The fact is that the way God chose to do it that way achieved all the results his analogy intended.

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