Ascension, one of the 12 Great Feasts of the Orthodox calendar year, occurs 40 days after Pascha. “While they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.” (Acts, 1:9)
We see the repetition of forty throughout the Bible: forty is a number of completion, of fulfillment. Thus forty days after Pascha we see the fulfillment of Jesus’ life here on earth, His ascension into heaven. This is such an important event, we even hear about it in the Creed. “(He) ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father…”
The ascension of Christ is not only the fulfillment of His physical life, but a promise of our own ascension to “sit at the right hand of the Father.” We also see a foreshadowing of the feast of Pentecost, when He tells His disciples that He will send the Holy Spirit to guide them. This is reflected in the prayers in liturgy and also in our personal prayers; during the 40 days between Pascha and Ascension, we replace the “Heavenly King” prayers with “Christ is risen”; after Ascension, we no longer include “Christ is risen”, but we also do not include the “Heavenly King” until after the Holy Spirit has descended on Pentecost.
Christ has Ascended! Truly He has Ascended!
Some simple ways to celebrate the feast with your family:
- Attend liturgy
- Bake a cloud-like and delicious pavlova! I use this recipe (use the leftover yolks in an egg custard; they keep well in the fridge, so go ahead and double it)
- Go cloud-watching or kite flying
- Release sky lanterns (I have always wanted to do this, but they are actually illegal in Oregon, so be sure to check with local ordinances)
- Refresh your icon corner with a bouquet of white flowers
- Wear white, or your special Pascha clothes
- Listen to Chrissi Hart read The Ascension of Our Lord
I think this is also a nice time for moms to consider how we are taking care of our physical bodies. Christ could have ascended to heaven spiritually, but chose to ascend in his physical body. We are created in the image of Christ! We strive to ascend spiritually, but also need to give energy to taking care of our bodies in a way that lifts us up. Taking vitamins, eating wholesome foods, taking care over bathing and dressing; we can use our self-care to glorify God.
Continuing with the theme of taking care of our physical bodies, it’s also a good time to think about putting together a summer first aid kit that you can carry with you on your summer adventures. I’ll share more about what we pack in ours in another post!
In the Northern Hemisphere, it is nearly time for summer solstice, and as our Lord ascends to heaven, so the days become longer, the energy more expansive. The sun rises in the sky, giving light and heat, causing all things to grow. I’m meditating on the light of the risen Christ, how my heart can ascend, Christ-like, to the Father, and on how I can embrace the growth and joy of the season.
I hope you have a blessed feast day!