*the picture above is from the sanctuary of The American Church in Paris
I must be honest…I had never had of Ascension Day before moving to France. Of course this does not surprise me as I continue to learn how little I knew or experienced prior to moving overseas.
One of the many observations I have made since moving to France is the number of public national holidays celebrated here that have religious origins. In addition to Christmas and Easter holidays, France recognizes All Saints Day, , Ascension Day, Pentecost (Monday), and Assumption Day. Schools and shops are closed and churches hold various festivities and services. I dare say that most French no longer understand the significance of these holidays. I do find it odd that a “secular” nation still celebrates such important Christian feast days.
One of the blessings for me personally has been the introduction of these days and a deepening of understanding and appreciation of their traditions.
During my tenure in New York, the schools had all of the major Jewish holidays off, and I was able to learn the significance of those days, not only for my Jewish brother and sisters for my own faith as well.
Throughout Christian history, the Church calendar has set aside such feast days as a way of remembering the story and marking the seasons.
Growing up, my tradition would celebrate Christmas and Easter and the rest of the year….well that basically was up for grabs.
Here at The American Church in Paris, we follow the Church lectionary and calendar and I am amazed at how the intentionality of the seasons helps with the continuity of the story of God throughout the entire year. Certainly there are some “low” periods in the year, but much of our worship planning (and cultural holiday season) is impacted by the legacy of Christianity. Truth be told, if today were not Ascension Day, I probably would not be focussing as much on the resurrection stories of Jesus and commissioning of disciples. The nation of France gives me a day for this!
Next week our church will enter probably our third largest “holiday” season of Pentecost. I hope to reflect on that and how serving at a widely diverse and international congregation has also change my views and appreciation.
The “Ascension Window” in the sanctuary at ACP is also our Pentecost Window. What is interesting is that both are part of a much larger window known as the “Missionary Window”. From a theological perspective, the ascension of Christ and the descending of the Spirit directly impact discipleship and the sending out of missionaries to preach the gospel. The Missionary Window depicts some famous missionaries, covering four regions in four of five columns, starting on the left with Asia, then Europe; the centre shows Christ’s missionaries; then to the right, Africa and the Americas.
These reflections lead me to wonder what I have missed growing up with liturgy or tradition of the Church. *Perhaps another poll question and post for later!
For those of you who, like me, may not be as familiar with today’s Christian feast, here is a brief overview…followed by a Wikipedia excerpt
Ascension Day marks the day that Jesus ascended to heaven following his crucifixion and resurrection, according to Christian belief. It is the 40th day of Easter and is ten days before Pentecost Sunday. It is a public holiday in France.
The Ascension of Jesus (anglicized from the Vulgate Latin Acts 1:9-11 section title: Ascensio Iesu) is the Christian teaching found in the New Testament that the resurrected Jesus wastaken up to heaven in his resurrected body,[Acts 1:9-11] in the presence of eleven of his apostles, occurring 40 days after the resurrection. In the biblical narrative, an angel tells the watchingdisciples that Jesus’ second coming will take place in the same manner as his ascension.
The Ascension of Jesus is professed in the Nicene Creed and in the Apostles’ Creed. The Ascension implies Jesus’ humanity being taken into Heaven.The Feast of the Ascension, celebrated on the 40th day of Easter (always a Thursday), is one of the chief feasts of the Christian year. The feast dates back at least to the later 4th century, as is widely attested.
The account of Jesus ascending bodily into the clouds is given fully only in the Acts of the Apostles, but is briefly described also in the Gospel of Luke (often considered to be by the same author, see Luke-Acts) at 24:50–53 and in the ending of Mark 16 at 16:19.