THE RECTOR WRITES
I write this it's hard to believe that two weeks have already passed since Easter Sunday and we will soon be at Ascension
Day which is when the church celebrates Christ's ascension into heaven, forty days after Easter. This year it falls on
Thursday 13th May.
Historically Ascension Day was marked
in many and various ways, especially in rural areas. It falls at the end of the three-day period the Church calls ‘Rogationtide'
which is a time set aside to pray for God's blessing on the land, livestock and crops in hope of a good harvest. On Ascension
Day villagers would ‘Beat the Bounds' of their parish, marking the boundaries by beating particular trees and landmarks
with sticks and praying as they went. Ascension Day is also associated with the tradition of ‘well dressing', popular
across Derbyshire. There are also superstitions around Ascension Day; in Devon it was said that any clouds on this day will
form into the Christian image of a lamb, and weather lore says that if Ascension Day is sunny the summer will be long and
hot but if it rains the crops and livestock will suffer.
Ascension happened as Jesus made his final resurrection appearance to his disciples; ‘When he had said this, as they
were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight' (Acts 1:9). This can make heaven seem like a
distant place, separate from earth, but I believe it to be another dimension, somewhere very close, like behind the wardrobe
in C.S. Lewis' ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardobe', if you like. The Ascension is part of the sequence of
events - Christ's participation in creation, his birth at Bethlehem, his life, death and resurrection, his ascension,
then the outpouring of his Spirit at Pentecost - and we await the culmination of God's promise that Jesus will one day
return to rule and God's plan to unite heaven and earth in a new creation will be fulfilled.
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