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.
I love what you’ve written Carrie! Fascinating to hear about these creative cultural European traditions of long ago. Someone was inspired to come up with those ideas! All Year Round always has such poetic insights. We didn’t know to look for lambs in the fluffy clouds. We’ll try that! While we’d tried celebrating Eastertide for several years last year was the 1st time I didn’t completely lose steam so finally made it all the way to Ascension (40 days) & Pentecost (50 days) & celebrated. I wasn’t raised celebrating the liturgical year so am learning alot & that was the first year I realized the significance of these as festivals. Our 40 hole wood Eastertide spiral had a paper butterfly theme since they’re Easter symbols of transformation & they fly which goes well with a lovely Ascension image in Brian Wildsmith’s Easter book (Christ has butterfly wings). In retrospect it was too much butterfly so we switched to a garden theme this year. Inspired by the Catholic Shower of Roses blog I’d planned a hike ascending to the top of a local hill for a colorful cloud themed picnic with a sweet Catholic neighbor, my son’s former Waldorf classmate. We’d made organic cloud themed foods: cream puffs with low sugar whipped cream & strawberries, & popcorn. We had to make several ascents to reach the top of Strawberry Hill in the middle of Stowe Lake in Golden Gate Park of San Francisco. A trek for me carrying my 18 m.o.. The children did parachute play (cloud-like), free play, & we watched the clouds. We really did enjoy it so much that this will be a new tradition for us! Ascending the hill felt really right. Its a Holy Day of Obligation for us but our locale observes it on Sunday so we’ll of course attend mass then. I’d like to come up with a suitable craft for a 1st grader this year, hmm? Maybe a wool painting? As in those ones that have loose wool layer on a felt background as a dreamy loose tapestry. We started working with wool more since Good Shepherd Sunday. Thanks again for this post! 😀
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