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Holy Days: Christian


Advocate staff writer

Ascension of Christ

This Christian feast day is celebrated 40 days after Easter. This year it is Thursday. Many people will mark the observance the following Sunday, June 1.

According to the Bible, Christ was resurrected after the crucifixion and spent time visiting his disciples. He then rose into heaven, either near Bethany (Luke 24:50-51) or the Mount of Olives (Acts 1:9-13). Mark 16:19 also mentions the Ascension.

Christ predicted his Ascension (John 6:62 and John 20:17) and Paul mentions it in his letters to the Ephesians (Ephesians 4:8-10) and to Timothy (1 Timothy 3:16)

St. Augustine said that the feast was first celebrated by the Apostles. However, the oldest existing references are from the fourth century. Historically, the feast is marked by blessings of certain crops and a candle, extinguishing the Easter candle and processions. Some churches act out the Ascension by lifting a figure of Christ through the roof of the church. Some also used a descending figure of the devil.

Assumption of Mary

The Feast of the Assumption (Aug. 15) marks the end of Mary's life on earth. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was not stained by original sin, so she was assumed or taken into heaven, her body and soul in glory.

In 1950, Pope Pius XII defined the Assumption as dogma, but tradition as far back as the fifth century said that Mary's body was taken to heaven. The feast has been celebrated since 600.

Orthodox Churches also recognize the feast; it is mentioned in sermons from the seventh and eighth centuries. The Protestant Reformation rejected the doctrine as nonbiblical.

Bahai --scension of the Bah»a' Allah

Thursday is also observed as the Ascension of Bah»a' Allah by followers of the religion of Bahai.

Bah»a' Allah, 1817-1892, is the religious name of Mirza Husayn Ali Nuri, the founder of Bahai. In Arabic or Persian, Bah»a' Allah means "Glory of God." He was among the earliest converts to Babism. In 1863, he proclaimed himself "He Whom God Shall Manifest," something the Bab had prophesied.

The Ascension of Bah»a' Allah, on May 29 each year, is observed by breaking from work and sharing prayers and readings.

Bahai is one of the newer religions. It began in Iran in the 1800s. About 6 million people worldwide believe in the Baha'i faith.

Bahai (pronounced BAH-hi) is a syncretistic religion, meaning it is a way of worship that seems to be like two or more other religions. One source calls these religions "mix-and-match" because they pull parts from several religions. For example, Bahai honors prophets from many religions: Moses from Judaism, Krishna from Hinduism, Zarathushtra from Pasri-Zoroastrianism, Buddha from Buddhism, Jesus from Christianity, and Muhammad from Islam.

"Handbook of Denominations in the United States" lists the dominant principles as:

1. independent investigation of the truth

2. essential harmony of science and religion

3. recognition of the divine foundation of all religions

4. universal compulsory education

5. equality of all men and women

6. spiritual solution of economic problems

7. need for a universal auxiliary language

8. universal peace based on a world federation of nations

9. elimination of all prejudice

10. recognition of the essential unity of humanity

SOURCES: World Book

Ways We Worship, William McElreth

Encyclopedia Britannica

Webster's New World Dictionary

The Perennial Dictionary of World Religions, Keith Crim, editor

The HarperCollins Dictionary of Religion, Jonathan Z. Smith

Handbook of Denominations in the United States, Frank S. Mead and Samuel S. Hill

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