This celebration is called by many names, The Feast of the Ascension of Jesus Christ, for us at St Francis, Ascension Day or Ascension Thursday or even sometimes Holy Thursday.
This day commemorates the Christian belief in the bodily Ascension of Jesus into heaven.
It is one of the ecumenical (tech speak for universally celebrated) feasts of Christian churches, alongside Easter and Pentecost, and occurs on the Thursday, 40 days (30th May) after Easter. It marks the end of the Easter period and falls ten days before Pentecost.
Don’t be surprised to see this feast on the following Sunday as some Christian denominations have moved this feast.
The one question you might ask is how do we know or did anybody see it happen, the answer is yes, according to the accounts in the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles, Jesus appeared to many of his disciples (followers) during the 40 days following his resurrection to instruct them on how to carry out his teachings.
On the 40th day, he came again to the Apostles and led them out to the Mount of Olives where he told them to wait in Jerusalem for the promise of the Holy Spirit, (which we know as Pentecost), then as they were all watching he ascended into the clouds.
As a byline The Mount of Olives or Mount Olivet is a mountain ridge east of and adjacent to Jerusalem’s old city, it is so called as the olive groves that once covered it slops. The mount has been used as a Jewish cemetery for over 3,000 years and holds approx 150,000 graves. Several key events in the life of Jesus took place on the Mount of Olives, because of its association with Jesus’s ascension and Mary the mount has been a site of Christian worship since ancient times and is a major site for pilgrims today.
Ascension Day’s meaning provides us all with a sense of hope that Jesus’s return is near, it also provides a very real reminder and comfort that the Spirit of God is watching over and protecting us all.
As always with my brief explanations, a roundup of the fun festivals across Britain associated with this day.
There seems to be a few, such as Well Dressing in Derbyshire to the planting of the Penny Hedge in the harbour at Whitby, Yorkshire. It is also the day for Beating the Bounds or Boundaries of a church’s parish, this was once very popular, but now only carried out in a few places, it involved people locally walking around their farm, manorial, church or civil boundaries pausing at certain marks, be it a tree, wall, hedge, etc that marks their boundary to pray and ritually beat that particular landmark with sticks.
In England, eggs laid on Ascension Day are said ‘never to go bad’ and will guarantee good luck to the household if put on the roof.
In Devon, it was an ancient belief that the clouds always formed into the familiar Christian image of a lamb on Ascension Day.
If the weather is sunny on Ascension Day the summer will be long and hot, if it rains on the day, crops will do badly, and livestock will suffer from disease.
And in Wales the superstition is that it is unlucky to do any work on Ascension Day!