Celebrating Feasts

You may not know how in the past the English have marked the final moments of Jesus Christ’s earthly life, his ascension into heaven. Perhaps the most vivid was elevating the figure of Christ above the altar, through an opening in the roof of the church. Also, there would be the extinguishing of the paschal candle, marking the start of a time of waiting for the Holy Spirit to come. There have also been processions with torches and banners, some of lions and dragons (symbolising the triumph of Christ over the evil one.)

It was once common for churches to “beat the bounds” on Ascension Day, walking round the parish, marking boundary stones (e.g. by writing on them in chalk) and hitting them with sticks. Knowledge of parish boundaries was important, since churches had certain duties such as the care of children born out of wedlock in the parish.

This year at St John’s we had 2 services and a group which met in Arthur’s house. A lot better than nothing, but arguably less imaginative than our forebears have managed. But there was something special as those of us, composed equally of St Mary’s and St John’s people, gathered in the choir stalls, worshipping and praying together from the heart. There was a rich sense of Christ’s victory, and that our access to God is wide open, thanks to Jesus.

We all know England has changed from a time when feast days were a very welcome respite from an otherwise predictable daily round of hard work – for survival, often. In our world today, we need to be imaginative, to connect in a fresh way the timeless truth the Feast Day brings with the world of Isleworth, as it is today. Through the St John’s lense of hospitality, this could be very inspiring.