The Feast of the Ascension

 The Ascension window at St. Michael's.

The Ascension window at St. Michael's.

This past Thursday was the fortieth day of the Easter Season, the day we celebrate Christ's ascent into heaven. The timing of the Feast of the Ascension, as it is known, has long created confusion about Easter Season. The season itself, known as the Queen of Feasts, is fifty days long, lasting from Easter Day until the Day of Pentecost. Ascension is always on a Thursday and comes ten days prior to Pentecost, but it is not the end of the Easter Season.

The old rubrics of the church, those instructions that tell us how to structure our worship and thus much of our doctrine, instructed that the Paschal Candle was to burn for all services from Easter Day until Ascension Day. During the reading from Acts on that day, when it mentions Jesus ascending into heaven and being taken from the sight of the disciples, the Paschal Candle was extinguished. While that is certainly a striking visual, it does give the sense that Jesus isn't just gone from our sight but is gone from us entirely. That's not what Jesus said, though, when he promised to be with us always, "even to the end of the ages." The Church decided to separate the putting away of the Paschal Candle from the Ascension, and to have it present and lit throughout the entire season of Easter.

This may seem a small thing and not worthy of much mention, but I would disagree. Jesus is always present with us, through the gift of the Holy Spirit, and we need to remember that. We have not been abandoned, and God has not moved on from us. That is not in keeping with anything we know about who God is or how God works. We do not always keep our promises, but thankfully, God does.