The war on Ascension

ascensionI cover local news here at GetReligion so I thought I would do a wrap-up of local news coverage of today’s holy day.

Which holy day? Ascension.

It’s one of the great feasts in the Christian liturgical calendar, and commemorates the bodily Ascension of Jesus into Heaven. In Roman Catholicism the Ascension of the Lord is a Holy Day of Obligation. Anglicans and Lutherans mark it. In the Eastern Orthodox Church the Ascension is one of 12 Great Feasts. In the Eastern Church, however, Ascension is marked using a different calendar. They will celebrate June 1.

The only problem is that I could not find any mention of this in mainstream newspapers. There were a few stories in Roman Catholic journals but nothing anywhere else. Please do let me know if your local paper had anything.

Covering this holy day, which is very important for Christians who celebrate the liturgical calendar, would certainly be difficult for reporters. It’s not a state holiday like it is in Germany, Scandinavia and the Netherlands. Unlike Christmas or Easter, there aren’t family celebrations surrounding the feast. There’s no consumerism associated with the day — thank God — so we don’t see cards or decorations in stores.

Still, if we can get a front-page New York Times feature on naming children Nevaeh, couldn’t a few papers gives us a paragraph or two on the Feast of the Ascension?

UPDATE: Thank you, reader Patti G! She submits a story from her local paper about a Lutheran Church’s Ascension Day celebrations.

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  • John L. Hoh, Jr.

    Alas, it is fast becoming a lost holiday on the church calendar. Even when I was growing up in the ’70′s attendance was going out of vogue. Usually, since I attended a Lutheran grade school, it would be a child-participation service similar to Christmas Eve. This not only ensures the students be in attendance but their parents as well. One church I know used the occasion to relate the history of the church body (synod) it belonged to. It was the 75th. anniversary of that church body that year. When I vicared at St. John’s in Burlington the school children were also involved and the pastor used the service as an overview of the church year.

    Some links to read:

    Many churches observe the ascension on the SUnday following the Thursday celebrated as the Ascension. Some wait till the Sunday after and have a combined Ascension/Pentecost service, which does a disservice to Pentecost which historically was one of the three great holidays in the church year (Christmas/Easter/Pentecost; think Father fulfilling Promise/Son fulfilling Law/Spirit filling us with His grace).

  • tmatt

    What did Oprah do with this one? That’s always a crucial question to ask. I’m joking. Kind of.

  • Jeffrey Weiss

    Mollie, what would the story say?
    The Nevaeh story was news. Maybe not big news, but news. Something had changed. Something was happenign that culd be seen, counted, described.
    Ascension, OTOH, is here again. Just like last year. I’m not saying there isn’t a story. I’ve woven too many holiday stories out of whole cloth. But unless there’s some peg, well, it’s just a theology lesson. And the MSM isn’t the place for that unless there’s a peg. See DVC ad nauseam…

  • tmatt

    OK, Jeff, let me improvise one.

    Dan Brown has said, sort of, that even though Jesus was a man, he did die on the cross and then was resurrected.

    So, does Dan Brown believe there was an Ascension?


    Actually, the story to me is the whole season of Easter/Pascha. How many people even know that the season is that long? What do churches do or do not do? What are the other major overlooked holidays?

  • viator

    Here’s a news hook for at least some section of the NY Times, Solemnity of the Ascension is one of only handful of days in which NYC’s Alternate Side parking is suspended ( It wass even repeatedly announced on the radio traffic reports for today, except with the tag “for the holiday” no mention of which one it was.

  • BL

    Here’s some food for thought.

    So the feast of the ascension is a big religion news story, eh?

    But it isn’t even celebrated in the Catholic diocese where I live until Sunday.

    If you’re looking for a paragraph or two, you’re looking for briefs and I’m sure those are out there somewhere.

    Maybe next month with the feast of Pentecost you’ll have a more legitimate issue.

  • Steve

    Many American Christian churches have replaced the historic Church calendar with the new “Evanglical Calendar” with the high holy days of July 4, Thanksgiving, and Election Day.

    The seasons such as Christmas, Lent, and Advent have been replaced with “40 Days of …”.

    How can you expect the media to cover something, most American Christians have either left or forgotten.

  • Mollie

    I wasn’t expecting widespread coverage of the holiday still celebrated by millions of Americans — just SOMETHING, somewhere. I’m surprised that there is, in fact, nothing. In a nation of hundreds of millions of people and thousands of papers, certainly there might be one or two reporters out there who wrote it up, right?

    Even writing about the decline of the day would be informational, too.

    And a story on the so-called War on Christmas and Easter would be illuminated or given context by showcasing how these folks who protest treat other days in the liturgical calendar.

  • John L. Hoh, Jr.

    tmatt wrote:

    What are the other major overlooked holidays?

    I’ll bet most people don’t know that the month of December is not Christmas per se on the Christian calender, but actually a penitential time called Advent (from the Latin “to come”). Most Americans assume that Christmas ends at midnight December 25 and the season on January 1. Yet the Christmas cycle (which begins with Advent, which usually starts the Sunday of Thanksgiving season) lasts through Epiphany, which can last some six weeks after the day of Epiphany (January 6). Even fewer know that the Eastern Orthodox tradition, still on the Julian calendar, celebrate Christmas January 7. So if you need to save on your Christmas shopping, celebrate with the Orthodox and take advantage of the Western “after-Christmas sales.”

    One of my links above was on an article about the Church year which I wrote.

  • tmatt

    Hey John:

    I am with ya. Go to and search for “Advent.”

    I have been writing that story for nearly two decades, long before I converted to Orthodoxy.

  • Patti

    Oddly enough, I found an Ascension story in our local paper, not usually known for religion coverage of any kind.

  • Mollie

    My pastor began his Ascension Day sermon with a note about how the Gospel of Judas teaches that Jesus’ body was unimportant. He then showed how the Judas Gospel was at odds with the church’s celebration of this day, and that the physicality of Jesus’ death and resurrection were integral to our Christian faith. So that’s another hook someone could have used or explored.