Some folks think that today should mark the end of the Easter Season. Tradition tells us that today, forty days after the Resurection, Christ ascended into heaven, once again to take His place at the right hand of the Father. Easter is over, right?
Well no, not quite. We do have one more mircle remaining in the Easter cycle. But more on that later. Today is all about Ascension Thursday.
The Solemnity of the Ascension of Jesus Christ, more commonly called Ascension Day, Ascension Thursday, or at times Second Holy Thursday, is the day Christians believe Jesus ascended into heaven. While known to his followers from the start, it was sometime around the 4th century that pockets of believers began to recognize the important of Ascension Thursday. Those who believe will tell you Jesus was not merely called up to Heaven, but that He rose up, under His own divine power. Ascension Thursday has a vigil that begins the evening before, and an octave, set apart of a Novena in preparation of Pentecost.
While tradition holds this day to be a Thursday, many Roman Catholic parishes requested permission from the Vatican to move the observance of the Feast of the Ascension from Thursday to the following Sunday, the Sunday before Pentecost. Similarly, Methodist Churches also moved their observance to Sunday. The fact that it was moved to a more convenient time might be a rant for another day. Then again, maybe not.
More and more, people of faith and in particular Christians find it difficult to attend services on Sunday, let alone on other days during the week. A frightening fact is that of those who attended church on a weekly basis prior to the lock downs on 2020; only 30% have returned to in person worship. Thirty percent. When you realize that, within the Catholic Community, the entire point of Mass is to spend time with the actual presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the fact that so few have returned is doubly shameful. It’s not just scripture, and hearing the Word of God, but receiving the Body and Blood of communion – something that cannot be done any other way than in person. Once upon a time, Holy Days of Obligation did not need to be moved to Sundays for the sake of participation. Those able to attend considered themselves fortunate and humbled rather than inconvenienced.
I know, should save my rants for another day . . . It’s just that sometimes I find myself so angry. I understand that not everyone can attend Mass. Some are homebound (which is why there are Eucharistic Ministers who visit those homebound), others have jobs that require them to work on Sundays (many Catholic Churches hold daily mass). Still others live in areas that have no churches, and they have is no means of getting to a church. Those are the only people who get a free pass in my book. The rest of you need to figure it out. If you believe Christ DIED for you, then you can manage to spend a little time each week giving thanks.
In the past, when people felt more connected to Holy Days and Traditions, Ascension Thursday was also observed with having a garden blessed or attending a sunrise service, followed by a picnic. Both are beautiful ideas. There are even prayers that a lay believer could say to bless their gardens. Most Catholic Churches have Holy Water that you are allowed to bring home in flasks. Holy Water is used in the home for for a variety of reasons. We bless ourselves when we rise in the morning, and before leaving the house. I bless myself before beginning the Rosary or other prayerful observance.
If you had Holy Water, you could sprinkle some in the garden beds after asking God’s blessing. Since the Observation of Ascension Thursday now takes place on Sunday, and you don’t need to attend mass today, you could enjoy a picnic dinner – maybe even in your garden, your terrace or patio. Be outdoors with your family. And feel blessed.
To me, traditions such as this are important. They feed the soul, and bring our children closer to God, with a connection to life and the world around us.
Deli Roasted Chicken Wraps with Garlic Aioli
4 tablespoons Mayonnaise
1 Garlic Cloves, minced
1 tablespoon Lemon Juice
Black Pepper to taste
Place mayonnaise in a small bowl. Peel and finely mince garlic, add to the mayonnaise. Add lemon juice, season with pepper. Whisk until well blended. Chill until ready to use.
Roasted Deli Chicken Wraps
4 Green Leaf Lettuce Leaves, shredded
1 Roma Tomato, diced
4 (medium) Tomato Basil Tortilla Wraps
8 oz sliced Oven Roasted Chicken
4 tablespoons Real Bacon Bits
Rinse, dry and stack lettuce leaves, roll tight. Slice to create shredded lettuce. Set aside. Dice tomatoes, set aside.
Lay tortilla wrap out on a flat work surface. Spread about a tablespoon of the Garlic Aioli over the wrap.
At one end, pile on about 2 ounces of the sliced chicken, then a scattering of tomatoes and shredded lettuce. Sprinkle about a tablespoon of bacon bits over the lettuce.
Tuck in the ends of the tortilla, fold over and roll tightly. Wrap the chicken wraps in plastic wrap, keep chilled until ready to enjoy.
Remove plastic wrap, cut on the bias if desired, and serve. Great with picnic salads or chips or just on their own.
Sing joyfully to God, all the earth; make melody, rejoice and sing