Ascension Icon, 6th century – St. Catherine’s Monastery, Mt. Sinai
Traditional Ascension Greeting: “Christ has Ascended!“
The Feast Day of Christ’s Ascension comes forty days after Pascha. Today from the Mount of Olives, the risen Lord ascends to Paradise upon a Divine Cloud! He ascends in the Flesh, to the place where He Was before Time.
Some Ascension Customs
Of course, if at all possible, the most important thing to do on the Ascension, is to attend Divine Liturgy!
As with any Great Feast, those who have to work on this day try to give some of their earnings to the poor.
Cloud-watching today is popular, as Christ went up in a cloud. If the weather is good, some go for a mountain hike, as Jesus went up the Mount of Olives for the Ascension. Throw a blanket on the grass or scrub, lay back, enjoy the clouds (search for a Lamb-shape), and have a picnic. If there are white wildflowers available to pick and you’re not too far from home, pick a few and bring them home to your icon corner. If you live where there are olive trees, a few branches are also collected for the icon bouquet.
Clergy traditionally wear white vestments today. Some lay people also wear white on the Ascension – because of the clouds, and decorate their icon corner with white flowers.
It’s also a custom to take a dip in the ocean on the Ascension, as the sea draws its water from the clouds.
On the Ascension, farmers share the milk with friends, neighbours and relatives. Remaining milk is used to make the traditional rice pudding.
Here’s something sweet and new… Some families make “Cloud Cookies” for the Ascension. Bake a flat sugar cookie, and after cooling, decorate the top with blue icing for the sky, and then pop a few white mini marshmallows on top, as clouds.
An old English country custom was to collect rainwater if it rained on the Ascension, and drink it. I tried this once. However, as I live in the city, rainwater from the overhead clouds tasted a bit odd… so I shared the remainder with my thirsty garden!
Traditional response for the Ascension greeting is, “From Earth to Heaven!”
How beautiful is the Mystery of Today!