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Things I should know about Ascension day as a Catholic [it's History and significance]

Things I should know about Ascension day as a Catholic [it’s History and significance]

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Ascension Day holds immense significance in the Catholic Church as it commemorates the departure of Jesus Christ from Earth and his glorious ascent into heaven. This holy occasion, observed forty days after Easter Sunday, serves as a reminder of Christ’s triumph over death and his eternal presence in the lives of believers. In this article, we will delve into the history of Ascension Day, explore the rituals and practices associated with the Ascension Mass, and highlight key aspects of the Ascension of Jesus Christ that are important to know as a Catholic.

The History of Ascension Day

The roots of Ascension Day can be traced back to biblical times, specifically to the New Testament accounts found in the Gospels of Luke and Mark. After his resurrection, Jesus spent forty days with his disciples, teaching them about the Kingdom of God. On the fortieth day, he led his disciples to the Mount of Olives, where he blessed them and ascended into heaven in their presence. This event is narrated in the book of Acts, Chapter 1, verse 9, where it is stated that Jesus was taken up and a cloud received him out of their sight.

Ascension Day has been celebrated by Christians since the early centuries of the Church. It holds a significant place in the liturgical calendar, falling between Easter Sunday and Pentecost, symbolizing the completion of Christ’s earthly mission and the preparation for the coming of the Holy Spirit.

The Ascension Mass: Celebrating Christ’s Glorious Departure

Ascension Day Mass is a joyous occasion filled with reverence and celebration. The liturgy for this day focuses on praising and glorifying Jesus Christ, who, after his resurrection, triumphantly ascended to heaven. Here are some elements and practices you can expect during the Ascension Mass:

  1. Scripture Readings: The readings during the Ascension Mass include passages from the Acts of the Apostles and the Gospel accounts of the Ascension. These readings reinforce the theological significance of Christ’s departure and emphasize the apostles’ mission to proclaim the Good News to all nations.
  2. Homily: The priest delivers a homily, reflecting on the Ascension and its implications for the lives of the faithful. The homily encourages believers to seek the heavenly kingdom and live out their Christian vocation faithfully.
  3. Liturgical Prayers and Hymns: Special prayers and hymns are included in the liturgy to honor Christ’s Ascension. These liturgical elements emphasize the majesty and glory of Jesus as the King of Heaven.
  4. Ascension Procession: In some parishes, a symbolic procession may take place, representing Christ’s ascent to heaven. This procession typically involves the priest and the congregation moving towards the entrance of the church or an outdoor area, emphasizing the upward movement towards the heavenly realms.
  5. Blessing of the Faithful: Towards the end of the Mass, the priest imparts a blessing to the congregation, invoking God’s grace upon them and empowering them to fulfill their mission as witnesses of the Risen Lord.

During the mass, the Pascal Candle is extinguished. This act symbolizes the departure of Jesus Christ from the earthly realm as he ascends to heaven. The extinguishing of the Paschal Candle represents the temporary departure of Christ’s physical presence from Earth, as he returns to the heavenly realms.

The extinguishing of the Paschal Candle serves as a visual reminder of the central theme of Ascension Day, emphasizing the transition from Christ’s earthly ministry to his exalted position at the right hand of the Father. It signifies the completion of his mission on Earth and the subsequent outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

While the Paschal Candle is extinguished on Ascension Day, it is not discarded or forgotten. Instead, it continues to hold its symbolic significance, representing the Risen Christ, throughout the remaining days of the Easter season. After the liturgical season of Easter concludes with the Feast of Pentecost, the Paschal Candle is typically moved to a prominent place in the sanctuary or near the baptismal font, where it will be used in various liturgical celebrations, such as baptisms and funerals, throughout the year.

The extinguishing and relocation of the Paschal Candle on Ascension Day serve as a reminder of the ongoing presence of Christ among his people through the Holy Spirit. It encourages believers to carry the light of Christ in their lives and to continue the mission of proclaiming the Gospel to all nations, empowered by the Spirit’s guidance and grace.

Key Aspects of the Ascension of Jesus Christ

As a Catholic, there are several important aspects of the Ascension of Jesus Christ that you should be aware of:

  1. Jesus’ Divine Nature: The Ascension affirms Jesus’ divinity and his authority over all creation. By ascending into heaven, Jesus returns to his rightful place at the right hand of the Father, participating in the divine life and interceding for humanity.
  1. The Promise of the Holy Spirit: Before his Ascension, Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit as the Advocate and Helper to guide his disciples. This promise was fulfilled on Pentecost, which occurs ten days after Ascension Day. The coming of the Holy Spirit empowered the apostles to carry out their mission of spreading the Gospel throughout the world.
  2. Our Union with Christ: The Ascension signifies our union with Christ as members of his mystical body, the Church. Through baptism and the sacraments, we are united with Christ and share in his resurrection and ascension. As Christ ascended to heaven, we are called to seek the things that are above and strive for holiness.
  3. The Great Commission: Before ascending, Jesus instructed his disciples to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations. The Ascension marks the beginning of the Church’s mission to proclaim the Gospel and bring salvation to all people. As Catholics, we are called to actively participate in this mission by living out our faith and sharing the Good News with others.
  4. The Hope of Glory: The Ascension gives us hope and assurance of our own future glory. Just as Jesus ascended into heaven, we believe that one day we will be united with him in the fullness of his glory. The Ascension reminds us that our ultimate destiny is to be with God forever.

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