It is nearly the end of the Paschal season already. We Orthodox Christians have been celebrating Christ’s resurrection for many days, beginning with the glorious celebration of Pascha! The end of the Paschal season offers us yet another opportunity to celebrate: the Feast of the Ascension of Christ, which always falls on a Thursday, is celebrated 40 days after Pascha. This Feast is one of the twelve Great Feasts of our Orthodox Church Year. Yet, for many of us, it goes by nearly unnoticed. Let us learn more about this feast and teach our Sunday Church School students about Our Lord’s return to heaven and His promise to send us the Holy Spirit.
The Ascension is important to us as Orthodox Christians for many reasons: it marks the end of Jesus’ time on earth reassuring His followers, after His resurrection; it is the date on which Christ gave his last commandment to His disciples; and it is the day in which Christ Himself took human flesh (His body!) into heaven, the presence of God, restoring man’s communion with God by giving humanity a permanent place of honor in heaven. (See more at http://www.theologic.com/oflweb/feasts/ascen.htm orhttp://www.metropolitannektariosofhongkong.org/2013/06/celebrating-the-feast-of-ascension/.)
Here are some ideas that can help to teach children about the Ascension:
- Read the story of the days Jesus spent with His disciples after the resurrection in Mark 16:14-19, in Luke 24:50-51, or in Acts 1:9-12.
- Allow the children read the simply written story at http://gardenofpraise.com/bibl32s.htm.
- Or, watch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AvZcNon-Hno.
- Help the children see what it would’ve been like for the disciples to watch Jesus disappear into the clouds by using a helium balloon in an object lesson such as thishttp://www.sermons4kids.com/up_up_and_away.htm.
- Make an ascension craft such as http://www.aprilshomemaking.com/2011/06/jesus-ascension-craft.html.
- Decorate your classroom for the Ascension with something like this http://tenkidsandadog.blogspot.com/2010/05/ascension-thursday-for-our-youngest.html. (Or offer it as a craft that the children can take home to decorate their homes.)
- Print and do this Orthodox activity at http://www.orthodoxabc.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/022-EN-ed02_Ascension-of-Christ.pdf.
- Additional activity sheets can be used from this booklet http://kidsclubs4jesus.com/SAJ1-60/Lesson%2059.pdforhttp://lifeovercs.blogspot.com/2014/03/free-jesus-ascension-craft-and.html#.U3wA9ehX-ua.
- Teach the children the troparion and kontakion for the Ascension:
Troparion (Tone 4)
O Christ God, You have ascended in Glory,
Granting joy to Your disciples by the promise of the Holy Spirit.
Through the blessing they were assured
That You are the Son of God,The Redeemer of the world!
Kontakion (Tone 6)
When You did fulfill the dispensation for our sake,
And unite earth to Heaven:
You did ascend in glory, O Christ our God,
Not being parted from those who love You,
But remaining with them and crying:
I am with you and no one will be against you.
It is important for the children to learn what the Ascension is about; that it is one of the 12 major feast days of the Orthodox Church; and that it is to be celebrated! How you choose to communicate those ideas with the children is up to you. However we choose to do so, may we all be prepared, and properly celebrate the Feast of the Ascension: for, through Christ’s Ascension, we humans have gained restoration with God!