The Feast of the Ascension

a liturgical note from Fr James Arcadi

After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God…as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.

Acts 1: 3 & 8

There are seven “Principle Feasts” on our Church calendar. These feasts cycle through the major events of Christ’s life (like his birth at Christmas and his resurrection at Easter) and other theologically significant concepts (like Pentecost and the Trinity).

Roman Catholics often refer to these and other feasts as “holy days of obligation” when one is obliged to attend mass. I tend to think more Protestantly about these days as “holy days of opportunity.” A feast is an opportunity to worship, an opportunity to celebrate, an opportunity to focus our hearts and minds on an important spiritual truth.

When we come to Holy Week, we often talk about slowing the calendar down and walking with Jesus in real time. The Feast of the Ascension is one of these Principle Feasts where we continue to walk with Jesus in real time. As Acts 1 indicates, forty days after the resurrection Christ ascended into heaven. Thursday of this week is forty days after our Easter commemoration of Christ’s resurrection this year.

There are many spiritual truths that this feast conveys such as those relating to Christ’s completion of his work, the authority he received in being seated at the right hand of the Father, or how Christ’s departure prepared the way for the arrival of the Holy Spirit (commemorated just 10 days after Ascension at the Feast of Pentecost). I invite you to take this opportunity this week to commemorate this Principle Feast.