Category Archives: Ascension

On the Feast of the Ascension

Here are two possibilities of ways to teach your Sunday Church School Students about the Ascension:

1. Take your students on a hike. Find the highest point of your church’s property, and have your class there. (If you are unable to do so, ask your students about the highest place they’ve ever been. How far could they see? What did they see? Imagine that you have all hiked to that spot together.) When you arrive at that high space, talk about the Ascension. Pretend together that you are the disciples, reunited with your Lord after the difficult time of His death and the joy of His resurrection. How do you feel, having Him in your midst again? If He invited you to the top of the hill like this, would you go with Him? What if He stood in the middle of you and began to talk: would you listen? If He began to tell you He will be leaving, how would you feel? What would you think about? When He suddenly began to float up from the ground and keep rising into the sky, right in front of you, what would you think? (If you are outside, you could demonstrate this with a face “of Christ” drawn on a helium balloon attached a really long string – so you could eventually retrieve it – or with a small plastic toy “Christ” taped to a kite that flies as high as you can get it to go from your picnic spot.) And what if He got so high that He disappeared in the clouds? (If you’ve done the demonstration mentioned, you will need to retrieve the balloon or kite now, noting that we’re not Christ, so we can’t do what He did!) Even though we can’t actually lift into the sky like that, we can imagine what it must have been like for the disciples left behind! What if, as you were talking about Christ leaving and disappearing in that way, suddenly there were two other men there with you, asking what you’re looking for, and telling you that Jesus will come back again someday? How would you react? What would you think? What would you do next? Then talk about what the disciples did next: they went to Jerusalem and waited. Just like Christ told them to do. What do you suppose the disciples talked about as they went back to Jerusalem? Discuss this, especially the fact that we are still waiting for Christ to come again, as you gather your things and head back down the hill to your Sunday Church School classroom.

2. Spend a class period thinking about Christ’s last words to His disciples. Last moments/last words leave an impression to those left behind. Talk a bit about your students’ experiences with “last words” from people they know who have now passed away. Then spend some time thinking about the last moments and last words that Christ had with His disciples before the Ascension:


Matthew 28:19-20 – Just before He ascended, Jesus told His disciples, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Luke 24:50 says “He lifted up His hands and blessed them” before He ascended into heaven.

Acts 1: 4-5 – Christ tells His disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit to come and be with them.

Acts 1: 8 – Christ tells His disciples that the Holy Spirit’s power will take them all over the earth, telling people about Him.
Set out art materials and invite each member of the class to choose one of the above to interact with through art. (It’s okay if everyone chooses the same one.) Someone may use chenille stems to create “Jesus” with hands outstretched in blessing, perhaps on a coiled “spring” of a pipe cleaner that allows him to begin “ascending.” Someone else may use a computer to print the words to the great commission (“Go therefore and make disciples…”) and incorporate them into a collage of magazine faces of different races or magazine pictures of different parts of the world. The ideas are endless.

 

Here are a few more ideas for celebrating the Feast of the Ascension with your students:

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After writing the blog post featuring these ideas for the Ascension, we went looking for additional links to share, and found this one that is similar to our blog ideas, but different enough to share: http://www.buildfaith.org/2015/05/08/celebrating-ascension-day-at-home/

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In case you missed it, here is our blog about the Feast of the Ascension from a few years back. It offers a variety of fun activities to do with kids as you celebrate this feast: https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2014/05/23/teaching-children-about-the-feast-of-the-ascension/

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Print this foldable centerpiece about the feast of the Ascension to decorate your classroom table (or print multiple copies and send one home with each child for their dining room table at home): http://www.antiochian.org/sites/default/files/assets/asset_manager/e99a5a84333ba33b10a74cfd228c33c6.pdf

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If your elementary aged students enjoy word searches, print this one about the Ascension: http://www.biblekids.eu/bible_word_search_puzzles/bible_word_search_puzzles/ascension-of-jesus_word-search_puzzle-2014.JPG


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Watch this clip that uses Lego people to tell the story of the Ascension: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6D0kMWj5NCE

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This (Roman Catholic) mom’s blog post is full of ideas for celebrating the Ascension with children: http://cherishedheartsathome.blogspot.com/2011/06/ascension-day-plans-and-scenes.html

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Look together at the icon of the Ascension. How much can your class tell about the event, just by looking at the icon? Learn more about the festal icon here, and see if there is more to the icon than you knew: http://www.goarch.org/special/listen_learn_share/ascension/index_html

 

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The Creed: And Ascended Into Heaven, and Sitteth at the Right Hand of the Father

By witnessing the Ascension, the disciples understood that the same Jesus who had lived among the poor and lowly was truly the God of all and would soon be glorified at the right hand of the Father. In the icon of the Ascension, we see the disciples with the Theotokos in the center, looking straight at us, lifting her arms to point to her Son, Jesus Christ, enthroned as ruler of all. “Ruler of All” is what the Greek word “Pantocrator” means. That is also the name of the icon we see in the center dome of many Orthodox churches. For us, the Feast of the Ascension is the reassurance of Christ’s living presence with us and the call for us to recognize Him as Lord and Master of all that exists.

“To say that Jesus is ‘exalted at the right hand of God’ as St. Peter preached… means exactly this: that man has been restored to communion with God, to a union which is, according to Orthodox doctrine, far greater and more perfect than that given to man in his original creation.” (Hopko, “Doctrine,” p. 107.)

“…The Ascension of Christ is seen as man’s first entry into that divine glorification for which he was originally created. The entry is made possible by the exaltation of the divine Son who emptied Himself in human flesh in perfect self-offering to God.” (Hopko, “Doctrine,” p. 109)

“The Ascension is proof that man was made for heaven, not for the grave; for glory, not for death.” (Coniaris, “The Nicene Creed,” p. 49)

Try this:  Bring an icon of the “Pantocrator” to Sunday Church School. Talk about the Pantocrator icon with your students. If you need a refresher course before beginning this discussion, check out this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d1a17zFbaPU and read this blog post http://www.orthodoxmom.com/2012/03/05/why-i-love-the-christ-pantocrator-of-mt-sinai-icon/. Both offer some of the symbolism behind the icon and can help you help your students better appreciate the icon! Consider making Pantocrator icon magnets like these http://thefrugalgirls.com/2010/10/marble-magnets-tutorial.html together. The children can take theirs home to stick on your fridge, in lockers, etc. Then they can remember that the Ruler of All is present in their everyday life!

Learn more about the Ascension of Our Lord. See https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2014/05/23/teaching-children-about-the-feast-of-the-ascension/ for a variety of ideas of ways to do so!

Teaching Children about the Feast of the Ascension

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:

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!