ASCENSION, FEAST OF THE, known also as Holy Thursday in the Anglican Church, the 4oth day after Easter, com memorating Christ's ascension to heaven; one of the oecumenical festivals of the Christian Church, ranking with Christmas, Easter and Pentecost. St. Augustine (Ep. S4 ad Januar.) mentions it as having been kept from time immemorial and as probably insti tuted by the apostles. Chrysostom mentions its celebration in a church outside Antioch, and Socrates (Hist. eccles. vii. 26) records that in the year 390 the people of Constantinople "of old custom" (i Eaovs) celebrated the feast in a suburb of the city. Adamnan, abbot of Iona, describes a pilgrimage at Jerusalem in the 7th century, when the feast was celebrated on Mount Olivet (de loc. sanct. i. 22). The Peregrinatio of Etheria (Silvia), C. A.D. 385, says that the festival was held in the Church of the Nativity at Bethlehem (Duchesne, Chr. Worship, p. 515). In the West, in the middle ages, a procession with candles and banners outside the church symbolized Christ's triumphant entry into heaven. In the East the festival is known as aveAntk r, "taking up," or vn, "salvation." In the Roman Catholic Church the most characteristic ritual feature of the festival is now the extinction of the paschal candle after the Gospel at High Mass. Other customs, e.g., the blessing of the new beans (Duchesne, p. 183) were formerly associated with the liturgy of this feast. In some churches an image of Christ was raised from the altar through a hole in the roof, through which a burning straw figure representing Satan was immediately thrown down.
In the Anglican Church Ascension Day and its octave continue to be observed as a great festival, with a special preface in the communion service. The Lutheran churches also retain the Feast. See Herzog-Hauck, Realencyklo piidie (19oo) , s. "Himmelf ahrts f est"; L. Duchesne, Christian Worship (end Eng. ed., London, 1904) ; The Catholic Encyclopaedia (London and New York, 1907) .