The feast day of St Matthias, whom we hear about in the first reading today, falls on 14th May. This year it was displaced a day (transferred in liturgical parlance) because that day was Ascension Day (a gold star for those that noticed the mis-spelling on the posters last week!) – Thursday last week.
Ascension Day is one of the nine “principal feasts” in the Church’s calendar and is the only one that can’t be moved to a Sunday which means that, given the pressures of work etc, it is often not observed as fully as the others (although the Roman Catholic Church has transferred it to a Sunday for just that reason). We celebrated the feast in a service of Eucharist with hymns at St Nicholas. The Day marks a crucial element in our Christian story as it celebrates Jesus being with his Father, at his right hand, making intercession for us. In Christopher Wordsworth’s phrase, “man with God is on the throne”.
It falls 40 days after Easter and there used to be a practice in some places of extinguishing the Paschal (Easter) candle in the service on that day. Common Worship, however, makes it clear that it is Pentecost (next Sunday) that marks the end of the great 50 days of Eastertide. It is after Pentecost that we turn to ‘ordinary time’ (and take green as the liturgical colour). The nine days between Ascension and Pentecost have a particular character of prayer and preparation to celebrate the outpouring of the Spirit – preparing us in our own day (and way and place) to be open to the power of that same Spirit. This week please pray especially for the launch of the Diocesan Strategy next Sunday, in which we shall all share.