When is Ascension of Jesus (07.05.2018)
Observed in Countries with Christian populations
Observed on Fortieth day after Easter; it always falls on a Thursday
Observed by Christians, primarily Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox Christians, and Anglicans
The Feast of the Ascension celebrates the Christian belief that Jesus rose to heaven 40 days after his Resurrection from the dead on Easter Sunday.
According to the Bible, during the time between Jesus’ Resurrection and his Ascension into heaven he appeared to his disciples numerous times, eating, drinking, and conversing with them about the kingdom of God. Christians also believe that Ascension Day was the last time Jesus was seen on Earth, and that his second coming will coincide with the end of days or Armageddon. Doctrinally, the Ascension of Jesus is important to Christians. Along with his Resurrection, it is one more proof of Jesus’ legitimacy as a prophet and the Son of God. According to Christian belief, the Ascension was his ultimate triumph over Satan’s powers.
Both Roman Catholics and Anglicans celebrate the Ascension on the 40th day after Easter Sunday.
In these traditions, it always falls on a Thursday and is usually celebrated on the actual day. However, there are some places, including the United States, Australia, and Poland, where the feast is observed on the following Sunday. This is also true in places that do not have regular church services on weekdays.
Orthodox Christians also observe the Ascension as a feast day, but it falls six days later, because they follow the Julian calendar.
Until recently, it was traditional in Rome to put out the Paschal candle (the candle lit on Easter Day) after the reading of the Gospel on the Feast of the Ascension to symbolize Jesus’ departure from the apostles. Flowers, images, and relics embellish the altar. In the Anglican Church, Ascension Day is the only weekday, barring Christmas, for which there is a special preface to the Communion.
Christian art and iconography of former eras frequently depicted Jesus’ defeat of evil. The lion (Jesus) vanquishing the dragon (Satan) was a common symbol of the Ascension.
Origins and History
Though the origins of this religious observance are not clear, St. Augustine identified it as an apostolic tradition. By the fourth century, the feast was usually marked by a procession, signifying Jesus’ journey to the Mount of Olives, the place of the Ascension.
English history records that during the procession there were banners depicting Jesus at the head and banners depicting Satan at the foot. These represented Jesus’ defeat of Satan while ascending into heaven. In some churches the Ascension was symbolized by elevating the figure of Jesus above the altar through a hole made in the roof of the church. In others, while the figure of Jesus was made to ascend, Satan’s was made to descend.
Not all customs associated with this day have stood the test of time. One such loss was the tradition of Rogation Days, a community festival that used to be held on the three days preceding the Ascension.
During the festival, various saints were asked for favors. The popularity of Rogation Days declined with the Reformation and had utterly faded by the end of the 19th century.
There is a plethora of superstitions attached to Ascension Day. Eggs placed on the roof were thought to bring good luck and to protect the home from lightning and fire. At midnight on the Ascension, if people suffering from goiter bit the bark of a peach tree, the disease was supposed to be transferred to the tree, and their goiters would be cured. It was also believed that gifts to the blind or the lame were sure to be rewarded with riches during the next 12 months. Rain collected on the Ascension was said to heal diseased eyes.
The mystique around Ascension Day has different connotations in different countries and different regions within those countries. In Devon, a county in southwest England, it was believed that clouds looked like lambs on this day. Sunny weather signified a long, hot summer; rains meant that crops would fail, and livestock would suffer diseases.
At Tissington in the county of Derby, the residents unfailingly decorate their wells with biblical verses laid out in letters made of flowers. They do this because wells used to be a symbol of purity, and May was considered the best month to visit healing springs.
A Welsh superstition says that it is unlucky to work on Ascension Day. In 1888, quarrymen at the extensive slate quarries near Bangor, Wales, refused to work on Ascension because they believed that an accident was bound to occur during the day if work continued. The management had, a few years prior, convinced the quarrymen to work on Ascension Day, but each year there was a serious accident, and with each death the superstition gained credence.
In Armenia stream water is supposed to have healing powers at midnight on this day. For that matter, any water that falls from the sky would have the same power. In Sweden a person who fishes from dawn until nightfall on this day would know the exact hour when the fish bite best, thus ensuring luck in his efforts all year. In Greece it is the start of the swimming season. In Venice, the doge (as the chief magistrate was formerly known) marries the sea by throwing holy water in along with a wedding ring. In Armenia it is said that on Ascension Eve inanimate and soulless objects receive the gift of speech and share each others’ secrets. In Poland the Sun is said to dance when it rises on this day.