Thursday, May 29, 2014

Ascension Thursday -- will you be in Church today?

One of the great sorrows of Christianity is how the Ascension lies forgotten in the heap at the bottom of Memorial Day laziness, Easter's floating timetable, the beginning of summer, and a day hardly associated with things religious or worshipful (Thursday).  But there it is.  The observance of Ascension Thursday was fixed upon the liturgical calendar from about the end of the 4th century. In the Latin West, St. Augustine of Hippo (+430) called it Quadragesima  (“fortieth”) Ascensionis. In the Greek East, St. Gregory of Nyssa spoke of it in 388.  That’s only an unbroken 16 century tradition of the Thursday, forty days after Easter, being a day of holy obligation for Christians -- so why should we bother trying to get people into Church?

I find it sad and sinful that some Lutherans have given up on Ascension Day, relegated the day to a joint service among several parishes, or transferred the day to the Sunday following and thereby erased our connection with the liturgical tradition of no less than 1,600 + years.

Equally sad is that this has turned into a farewell party in which the Church acknowledges the absence of our Lord (in direct contrast to His promise and to the meaning of His ascension to the right hand of the Father).  It is as if we have not only given up the day but also the very presence of Jesus among us.  The sacraments have been left as signs incapable of delivering what they promise and Jesus is hidden away except when bidden in prayer or by solemn invocation.

No, Lutherans must insist upon the Ascension.  I am doing my small part to rectifying the problem of those who have overlooked or abandoned the day by having not one but two Ascension masses -- 11 am and 7 pm (the later complete with choir).  It is my own feeble attempt to make sure that Christ is not forgotten on this important day and that we remember to acknowledge that He has not left us orphans nor has He assigned us to the guardianship of another but remains among His people as He has promised, through the Word and Sacraments, delivering the promised Spirit to His people to kindle, rekindle, and renew our faith and life in His kingdom as the baptized who await His final coming, also a part of the Ascension promise.

6 comments:

DJ Fritz said...

Thank you Pastor Peters for this posting on this special day. We have a bible study that follows the lectionary and studies the lessons that are coming up. Much discussion on the Ascension was our only way of observing this time of the church.

Anonymous said...

Just have a service. Do it. Publicize it. Time for lazy pastors to take the lead and set the example. No excuses. Ascension Day is important enough to have Divine Service. It will be a great blessing to all and will honor our Savior.

Anonymous said...

It seems that it would not be so hard to reinstate the prominence of Ascension Day. I mean, make like a party of it with full choir and so on. Maybe a barbeque dinner before it. If pastor talks it up and someone organizes volunteers, it could become a tradition people value and turn out for. To make these kinds of changes, it helps to announce it well in advance, so that people will block that day off and plan to participate.

Dave Bestul said...

Isn't there an Ascension Sunday?

Anonymous said...

Dave, today many congregations will observe Ascension on Sunday rather than have a service on the day of the feast, which is 40 days after Easter (Thursday - Easter 6).

Dave Bestul said...

My church has no service on Ascension Thursday, but my pastors are hardly lazy. That is a huge and rather unfair generalization.