Ascension Day 2023: date of the Christian observance, how is it celebrated and how does it differ from Easter?
This Christain observation commemorates the bodily ascension of Jesus into heaven
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Ascension Day is a Christian holiday that is also known as Holy Thursday, Ascension Thursday or Ascension Day. The day commemorates the bodily ascension of Jesus into heaven and marks the fortieth day of Easter.
It is a universally celebrated day, celebrated by multiple denominations, ranking on the level of the feasts of the Passion, Easter and Pentecost. But when is Ascension Day in 2023, and how is it observed? Here’s what you need to know.
When is Ascension Day 2023?
In 2023, Ascension Day is celebrated on 18 May for Western Christianity and 25 May for Eastern. Western and Eastern Christianity observe the celebration on different dates as Eastern Christianity, such as the Orthodox churches of Greece, follow the Julian calendar rather than the Gregorian one.
The Bible says that the risen Jesus appeared 40 days before his ascension. As this day is celebrated 40 days after Easter Sunday, Ascension Day is traditionally celebrated on a Thursday, but some Christian denominations moved the observance to the following Sunday.
What is the history behind Ascension Day?
Ascension Day is mentioned in the Biblical books Acts 1:3 and Luke 24:50, depicting that Jesus “was carried up into heaven” 40 days after his resurrection. The Latin terms of the feasts, ascensio and ascensa, signify Christ was raised up by his own powers, which is where the holy day derives its name.
Forty days after his resurrection, Jesus and his disciples went to Mount Olivet near Jerusalem where Jesus promised his disciples they would soon receive the Holy Spirit. As he blessed them, he began to ascend into heaven to take his seat at the right hand of God.
Why is Ascension Day important in Christianity?
In Christianity, the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ form the foundation of the faith. The ascension of Christ signifies the end of Jesus’ work on Earth and the beginning of preparation for his followers in heaven.
The Feast of the Ascension developed slowly as a separate celebration from the 4th Century and is traditionally observed on the sixth Thursday after Easter Sunday, but some Roman Catholics have moved the observance to Sunday to facilitate Mass.
In the Catholic tradition, ascension traditions begin with a three-day ‘rogation’, to ask for God’s mercy and conclude with a procession of torches and banners symbolising Christ’s journey to the Mount of Olives and his entry into heaven.
Although protestants no longer celebrate the dates they do not adhere to the traditional Christian calendar of feasts, it is observed in Lutheran, Anglican Methodists and most reformed churches.