I have been fortunate in my Christian life to have lived most of it--so far--in regions that have preserved the Ascension on its proper day. In most places, today is Thursday of the sixth week of Easter, a novelty of a liturgical day unknown to our ancestors in the faith.
I remember that it was the vigil of Ascension in 1992 when I first walked down to the church where I would be baptized and introduced myself to the pastor and the permanent deacon. My 'convert instructions' proceeded quickly from there--I had already journeyed through a sort of pre-catechumenate with the priest on campus--and I would be baptized on the other side of that summer on the feast that was then called the Beheading of John the Baptist.
I have always loved Ascension day. It seems to hold within itself the coincidences of opposites that make up the fruitfulness of the Christian mystery. In its curious mash-up of the chronologies and pneumatologies of the gospel traditions surrounding the Resurrection, we pray through the good news that Jesus' departure assures his abiding Presence among us, and are reminded that his descent into our humanity is the occasion of our ascent from the misery and frustration of selfishness and sin. A period marked by the apostles' privileged experience of the Risen Lord in little Galilee ends so that the Spirit who is his Presence may begin to be handed on to the whole world.
In prayer we experience a reflection of these mysteries in the little mirror of our soul. Who is this God to whom we pray, or this Spirit who prays in us? As no-thing, he seems to be more of an absence than a presence, he who is the Light so bright that our minds and hearts only see him as darkness. Indeed, it is the apparent inaccessibility of God that continues to draw us into the mystery. And so we continue in our interior striving after the adorable Mystery that is God Most High, with the striving that is the only true rest. The opposites that frame and enable our rational thought begin to coincide, a sign of our own ascension above ourselves, of our new freedom in Christ.