Feast • May 21
Church • Georgia
Ascension Parish in Georgia is a labor of love that was years in the making. Prior to the church being built, Masses were celebrated in the local elementary school. In 1988, the church was built, and on the Feast of the Ascension it was dedicated. The church faces west, and the pictur-esque window behind the altar has gorgeous views of the Adirondacks. Toward the back is a statue of Jesus ascending toward the heavens.
The Feast of the Ascension, celebrated each year on the 40th day after Easter (which always falls on a Thursday), is an ancient one in the Church. St. Augustine, referring to it in the fifth century, indicates that it was of apostolic origin and had been a feast for many years before his time.
The scripture that refers to the event, in which Jesus was taken up into Heaven through His own power, occurs in the Gospels of Mark (chapter 16) and Luke (chapter 24) as well as the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles; although the mention in the Gospels is relatively brief, Acts contains a much-more detailed account of the event, including Jesus’ last words to the Apostles and the message of the two angels who appeared to them afterward. “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven” (Acts 1: 11).
As with many places in the Holy Land, the precise location of the Ascension in not known, but it appears from scriptural evidence to be synonymous with Mount Olivet, or the Mount of Olives. Several memorials have been constructed on the site, beginning with one built by St. Helena, the mother of the Emperor Constan-tine. This was destroyed by the Persians in the seventh century, rebuilt in the eighth, destroyed again, rebuilt by the Crusaders and then destroyed a third and final time. The only thing remaining is an octagonal structure enclosing the stone from which it is believed Jesus ascended; the stone is said to bear the imprint of Christ’s feet. The whole area is now used as an oratory.
There are many ancient customs associated with this feast. In earlier times, beans and grapes were blessed after the Commemoration of the Dead in the Mass; there was also a blessing of the first fruits as well as the blessing of a special candle.
In 2020, Ascension Thursday will be celebrated on May 21.