What is the Feast of the Ascension?

Dear Maggie,

What is the Feast of the Ascension?

Raising Questions

Dear Raising,

I want ya to pick up your copy of the Book of Common Prayer and turn to page 15.  This is a place far too few Episcopalians venture and yet it is an important section of the prayer book because it outlines the most important feasts and fasts of the Christian calendar.  On that page ya will find the “Principal Feasts” of the Christian year, the big days of the Christian calendar.  Ya might be surprised to find that its not just Easter and Christmas, there is also Ascension Day, Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, All Saints Day, and The Epiphany.  These are the biggest days of the Christian year, the times when we need to really celebrate what God has done and is doing in the world.  This is all to say that the Feast of the Ascension is a big deal; it is a day we should honor with worship and a good meal, just as we would Easter and Christmas.

So, what is this big day we need to be celebrating?  Simply put it is the day when we remember that the resurrected Christ ascended into heaven so that he can sit at the right hand of God.  We read about this in Acts chapter 1.  Jesus promises his gathered followers that the Holy Spirit will come to them and then he is raised up to heaven, disappearing in a cloud.  It’s quite a scene and we can imagine the astonishment of those first disciples. 

So what does this Ascension mean for us?  It means that Jesus is now at the right hand of his Father, that Jesus is preparing to come again in the final stage of his renewal of the whole cosmos.  It also means that with the Spirit that we will welcome at Pentecost we are now the presence of Christ on earth, we are the body of Christ.  With Jesus ascended to heaven it is now our work to make sure his presence continues through the church.  It’s a tall order, but one for which God gives us the grace of his Spirit.

So on May 25 find a worship service, invite friends to join you for a good meal, celebrate the Ascension of Jesus to the right hand of God and the gift Jesus gives us in letting us continue his presence in the world.

May God’s peace be with ya,