The Feast of Ascension is such a beautiful festival. In the Western calendar, Ascension Day is coming on Thursday, May 8. This used to be a day of sabbatical in many places in Europe, where processions through a town or village went forth with a banner depicting a lion trampling the devil was at the head of this procession, and the procession stopped throughout the village to view little medieval pageants. It also used to be a day for Divine Liturgy, where the Paschal Candle was extinguished, perhaps a statue or picture of Christ was raised (sometimes elaborately through a hole in the ceiling with ropes!) and the mass of parishioners were showered with rose petals and flowers, which symbolized the gifts which the ascended Christ bestowed upon the Church.
Much of this no longer takes place. Many Anglican Communion churches now celebrate Divine Liturgy for the Feast of Ascension on the Sunday after the feast, and the Paschal Candle is extinguished on The Feast of Pentecost.
For the day of the Feast, those who are religious can attend Divine Liturgy and read the Gospel story about the Ascension of Jesus. We can ponder the mystical nature of the whole of the Church. This can still be a beautiful sabbatical day of hiking to a hill or mountaintop and looking for clouds in the shape of lambs, which is traditional.
Clouds are a theme in Ascension, and the clouds, according to the authors of “All Year Round”, can link us to the “stream of blessings which united heaven and earth”. The section on Ascension also talks about “between the common ground of our daily life and the vaulted heights of our ideals, the longings of our heart swell like summer clouds.” These are lovely thoughts to ponder as we re-fresh and re-new our souls on this special day, and the nine days following The Feast of Ascension in order to prepare for Whitsun (Pentecost) – the renewal found in this festival makes room and space in us to receive the gifts our Creator has bestowed upon us, and to ponder how we can use these gifts in truth to serve all of humanity.