“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19)”
What is the Leave-Taking of Pascha, and Jesus’ Ascension, and why are they important for the Orthodox faithful?
Christ Is Risen!
All major feasts in the Liturgical year are gifted a leave-taking, which indicates the end of the feast period. This allows the faithful an opportunity to celebrate the feast service one last time. When we experience something edifying, it becomes human nature to long and desire for that experience again, and thus, the church in its infinite wisdom provides this opportunity to experience the Pascha service once more. Of course, it does also mean we stop chanting the Troparion ‘Christ is Risen’, nor do we greet each other in the same manner. Although remembering we still celebrate Christ’s resurrection weekly during the Divine Liturgy, which is considered a Mini Pascha.
Leave taking of Pascha is the longest leave-taking of the feasts, with it lasting 39 days after Pascha, of course finishing before the Ascension of Christ, which consistently falls 40 days after Pascha.
Jesus’ Ascension signifies the end of the Lord’s physical presence on earth. He does not abandon us, however. Jesus is said to have appeared to his disciples 11 times after his resurrection until his ascension. He has promised to be with us always, even until the end of the age (Matthew 28:20). The Feast itself commemorates when, on the fortieth day after His Resurrection, Jesus led His disciples to the Mount of Olives, and after blessing them and asking them to wait for the fulfillment of the promise of the Holy Spirit, which occurs 50 days after Pascha, known as Pentecost, He ascended into heaven. It is also at this time that the disciples were directed by Christ to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19), thus making it a significant feast in our Orthodox Liturgical Calendar.
We also begin to fast and abstain on Fridays and Wednesdays again, though with granted concessions, allowing us to consume fish this Friday up until the Apostles Fast beginning on the 20th of June. For fasting prescriptions, please refer to the church calendar, and consult your parish priest.
Finally, to celebrate one last time the Pascha service for this liturgical year, please join us Tuesday the 31st of May at St Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Church, Punchbowl at 6:30pm (Matins & Divine Liturgy), and for the Ascension service at St Mary, Mays Hill Wednesday the 1st of June for Great Vespers at 630pm.