What You Need To Know About Ascension Day

Photographed by Rockie Nolan.
For some, Easter may be a dim memory by now. But, those who celebrate Ascension Day know exactly how long it's been since then. The Feast of the Ascension, as it's also known, takes place 39 days after Easter Sunday (this year, that will be Thursday, May 25) and is believed to mark the day that Jesus ascended to Heaven.
Although Ascension Day commemorates Jesus' departure from Earth, it's not at all a cause for sadness. In fact, it's a pretty joyful day in the Christian calendar. His ascension is often cited as the final sign of his divinity, or his godly power. Much like Jesus' resurrection, which is what Easter celebrates, it's an affirmation of the Christian faith.
And that's why both Western and Eastern forms of Christianity celebrate Ascension Day. It may not be a federal holiday in the U.S., but it's considered to be one of the oldest Christian celebrations (it's been traced back to the year 68 C.E.), and it's as significant as Easter or Christmas.
And while Easter has a bunny and Christmas has a jolly man in a red suit, Ascension Day doesn't have a kicky mascot. By comparison, it's a pretty low-key (albeit meaningful) celebration. Depending on the church, a special Thursday Mass may be held for Ascension Day, or the weekly Sunday Mass will address the events of the ascension. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, it used to be customary to raise a cross or figure of Jesus above the church altar or even through the roof of the church to represent Jesus ascending to heaven.
You probably won't see a display like that at any church near you. But, to observant Christians, that image of Jesus rising up and leaving Earth behind remains a powerful symbol and will serve as a point of reflection this Thursday.

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