Catholic Activity: Teaching the Ascension
Helen McLoughlin gives some guidelines here for ways to instill a deeper spiritual appreciation within your children for the reality of Ascension Thursday.
Over and over the saints in their writings urge us to be glad and give worthy expression to our exceedingly great joy in Jesus' Ascension. He Himself tells us, "If you loved me, you would be glad because I go to the Father." And St. Augustine says that by celebrating this feast devoutly, virtuously, faithfully, and piously, we ascend with our Lord and have our hearts above. "For the Resurrection of the Lord is our hope, and His Ascension our glorification."
In a world where Ascension Day is all but passed by, how can we, who bear witness to Christ, celebrate Him who "makes the clouds His chariot and walks on the wings of the wind"? We cannot perhaps have a procession in honor of the journey of Jesus and His disciples to the Mount of the Ascension. But we can easily and naturally tell our children about the journey and the custom of Ascension Day walks in other lands, while we go as a family to Mass. We can talk about how lovely the earth must have been that day, of the Readings at Mass, and of our own going up into heaven.
Ascension is a time to teach our children that by living the faith the day will come when "we all shall be taken up in clouds to meet Christ and to be with our Lord forever." As joint heirs of heaven, we must keep before their eyes and ours the fact that this was the reason for our creation. We must also stress the words of Christ, our Brother, words of consolation for us at His Ascension: "I go to prepare a place for YOU."
Our prayers for Ascension Day must indicate triumph, because Jesus has accomplished the world's redemption. They must also express the joy with which the angelic choirs are preparing to lead Him to His throne and to adore Him. "Lift up your gates, oh ye princes, and the King of glory shall enter in."
There is one prayer in particular which helps us to realize that we are the fruit of Christ's victory. It is the prayer of St. Gertrude: Beneath Thy genial ray, O Son of Justice, may the flowers of all the virtues spring forth from me, who am but dust and ashes. May my soul, rendered fruitful by Thee, my Master, my Spouse, bring forth the noble fruit of every perfection. May I one day be led forth from this valley of sorrows and be admitted to behold Thy face, so long, so wistfully desired. Then may it be my everlasting happiness to think that Thou hast not disdained, O Thou spotless Mirror, to unite Thyself to a sinner like me."
On Ascension Day we play the RCA recording of the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah. Its supreme greatness and radiant warmth have given the children over the years some appreciation of the majesty of the ascending Lord.
Activity Source: Family Customs: Easter to Pentecost by Helen McLoughlin, The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota, 1956