Today marks the 40th day since Easter Sunday and marks the day that the Lord Jesus Christ ascended to Heaven. It is most commonly known as Ascension Day, but can also be known as Holy Thursday, Feast Day of the Ascension, or Ascension Thursday. To Christian churches this day is equal with Feasts of the Passion, Easter, and Pentecost.
This day is usually celebrated with feasts and in some areas has been moved to the following Sunday. Many different ceremonies are used to illustrate the ascension of Christ, and in some instances the descending of Satan. There are other rituals connected with it such blessings of fruits and beans, lighting of candles, the extinguishing of the Easter or paschal candle, and processions of torches and banners affixed with emblems of fruits and vegetables. Even Johann Sebastian Bach, the celebrated composer, created several cantatas and a piece called the Ascension Oratorio which was to be performed in church services on this day.
Often there is an Afterfeast that lasts for 8-days until the Friday before Pentecost which ends the Easter cycle.
Some claim that this day has been practiced since the beginning of the Christian faith, but no recorded evidence exists before the 4th Century.
The description of the Ascension of Christ comes to us in the Books of Luke (24:50-53) and Mark (16:19) as well as in the Acts of the Apostles (1:9-11). The Ascension is one of the five milestones in the Gospel narrative of the life of Christ; the others are the Baptism, Transfiguration, Crucifixion, and Resurrection. It is after Christ's Ascension that angels appear before the Apostles and describes to them the Second Coming of Christ as coming back in a like manner.
It is interesting to note that as a Knights Templar, most Commanderies do not hold an Observance for this day. It is curious to note in older Templar monitors that there was a ceremony that laid out a ceremony for an Ascension Observance. It's a fascinating to read. I know some Commanderies do celebrate this and from I've read it's on the following Sunday, on Pentecost.
Remember this day.