It is nearly the end of the Paschal season already. Our families have been celebrating Christ’s resurrection for many days, beginning with the glorious celebration of Pascha! The end of the Paschal season offers us another opportunity to celebrate: the Feast of the Ascension of Christ, which always falls on a Thursday, 40 days after Pascha.
This Feast is one of the twelve Great Feasts of our Orthodox Church Year. And yet, for many of us, it goes by nearly unnoticed. Let us learn more about this feast and find ways to help our family celebrate Our Lord’s return to heaven and His promise to send us the Holy Spirit; and let us find ways to make that celebration special!
The Ascension is important to us as Orthodox Christians for many reasons: it marks the end of Jesus’ time on earth reassuring His followers, after His resurrection; it is the date on which Christ gave his last commandment to His disciples (now, us!); and it is the day in which Christ Himself took human flesh (His body!) into heaven, the presence of God, restoring man’s communion with God by giving humanity a permanent place of honor in heaven. (See more athttp://www.theologic.com/oflweb/feasts/ascen.htm orhttp://www.metropolitannektariosofhongkong.org/2013/06/celebrating-the-feast-of-ascension/.)
That is a lot to celebrate! Let us teach our children what the Ascension is about, and together celebrate this feast! Here are a few ideas:
Celebrating the end of Jesus’ time on earth:
- To hear the story of the days Jesus spent with His disciples after the resurrection, read about it in Mark 16:14-19, in Luke 24:50-51, or in Acts 1:9-12.
- Or, watch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AvZcNon-Hno.
- Make an ascension craft such as http://www.aprilshomemaking.com/2011/06/jesus-ascension-craft.html.
- Decorate your home for the ascension with something like this http://tenkidsandadog.blogspot.com/2010/05/ascension-thursday-for-our-youngest.html.
- You could even eat a dessert like this http://anastasiaspalace.blogspot.com/2010/10/sky-jello.html to celebrate Christ’s rising in the clouds!
Celebrating the last commandment Christ gave to his followers:
- To find out what the last commandment is, unscramble the “secret code” in the circle at http://www.sundayschoolsources.com/classmat/commissionwordcircle.pdf.
- Talk about what this means: “you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Brainstorm how your family can be part of fulfilling this commandment.
- Check out http://www.ocmc.org/ and http://www.iocc.org/ to see how other Orthodox Christians are fulfilling this last command of Christ. Look for ways to help them: pray, give money, and/or go and help!
Celebrating Christ taking His Body with Him and thereby restoring humanity’s communion with God:
- Discuss the incarnation with your children: what does it mean for Christ to be both God and man? (Suggestions for this discussion, at different age levels, can be found at http://www.thrivingfamily.com/family/faith/2009/god-with-us.aspx.)
- Make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with your children. Smash it together really well, so that the fillings mix. Have the children pull the sandwich apart and look at it: “is it just peanut butter? Just jelly? Would it be as delicious to eat it like this? (No, and it would be messy!) We’re a little like one side of that peanut butter and jelly sandwich: we’re supposed to be with the other side, with God, all the time, not just have a little of God in our lives (like a little jelly in the peanut butter), but we should be together completely. That’s the way we are best, and meant to be!” Put the sandwich back together again, and as the children eat it, discuss how we were made to be with God. Christ’s redeeming our humanity by taking His body with Him into heaven puts all humans able to be back with God again, as we were meant to be.
Make a plan together as a family to intentionally celebrate the Ascension of Our Lord, this year. Find more information on the Ascension at http://www.antiochian.org/ascensionor http://oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodox-faith/worship/the-church-year/ascension1. Print and do this Orthodox activity at http://www.orthodoxabc.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/022-EN-ed02_Ascension-of-Christ.pdf.
O Christ God, You have ascended in Glory,
Granting joy to Your disciples by the promise of the Holy Spirit.
Through the blessing they were assured
That You are the Son of God,The Redeemer of the world!
Kontakion (Tone 6)
When You did fulfill the dispensation for our sake,
And unite earth to Heaven:
You did ascend in glory, O Christ our God,
Not being parted from those who love You,
But remaining with them and crying:
I am with you and no one will be against you.