Ascension Day

Ascension day is the 40th day of Easter and commemorates the ascension of Jesus into heaven 39 days after resurrection on Easter Sunday.

You will find the Biblical accounts of the Ascension in Matthew 28:16-20, Mark 16:19-20, Luke 24:50-53 and Acts 1:6-11.

During the forty-day period before he ascended into heaven, it is believed that Jesus preached and intermingled with his apostles and disciples.

According to tradition, Ascension Day was first celebrated in 68 AD, however the first written evidence of the Ascension Day
feast occurred in 385 AD.

Today, Ascension Day is celebrated primarily by Catholics and Anglicans. According to Western Christianity methods of calculating the dates of Easter, the earliest possible date for Ascension Day is April 30, the latest possible date is June 3.

Ascension Day celebrations include the following:

The Easter (Paschal) candle is put out.

There may be processions with torches and banners and fruits and vegetables may be blessed in church.

Ten days after Ascension Day is Pentecost (Whitsuntide) which commemorates the coming of the Holy Spirit to the disciples. Pentecost ends the cycle of Easter related events in the Christian Calendar.




11 thoughts on “Ascension Day

  1. Sadly this is just a “day” in the so-called church calendar, and not more of a biblical-theological reality, especially these days!

    “Whoever does not know the office of Jesus Christ, can never trust in God, nor make prayers and supplications: he will be always in anxiety and doubt and dissimulation. Unless faith comes and shows us the way, it is certain (I say) that we shall never have access to God.” (Calvin, Sermon on Luke 2: 9-14). But Calvin can also echo the thought of the then familiar hymn when he says, “No language, indeed, can fully represent the consequences and efficacy of Christ’s death. This is the only place by which we are reconciled to God.”

    1. Fr. Robert, Spoken like a true “Reformed”! 🙂 The Ascension has such an interesting and exalted place in Reformed theology, including its eucharistic theology. Take Bullinger’s 2nd Helvetic Confession: “Therefore, we do not in anyway teach…that Christ according to his human nature is still in this world and thus is everywhere. For neither do we think or teach that the body of Christ ceased to be a true body after his glorification….” (Chpt. XI, of Jesus Christ, which also has an entire section on the Ascension)

      Compare that outside the Reformed. Lutheranism– Chemnitz and Andreae’s Catalog of Testimonies: “…rather, his entire person, namely as God and human being, according to the nature of the personal union with the humanity, which is an unsearchable mystery, is present everywhere, in a way and measure which is known to God.” Or as the Saxon Visitation Articles of 1592 (when the Lutherans became politically ascendant again there over and against the Reformed) puts it when rejecting specifically the “Calvinist” idea that “It is impossible for God, with all his omnipotence, to cause the natural body of Christ to be simultaneously present in more than one place.”

      1. @Michael: YES, there are real biblical and theological issues still alive here! And Christ is still “Incarnate” at the Right-Hand-Of-God, though Glorified! Indeed the question of the “prophetic office” of Christ, and the data of biblical theology still looms! Note the Anglican, A.G. Hebert stated that the messianic promise was the central theme of the OT! And the grand Book “Exhortation” of Hebrews (Heb. 13: 22), with John’s Gospel, etc. cements this in the NT! (See also Paul’s 2 Cor. 3)

  2. I wonder if the relative, yet real, diminuition of the Ascension outside of the Reformed Communion is due to the issue of the “real presence”. In the minds of the average person in the pews, say in the RCC, is Christ ever not physically present in their own specific local church? Which is why they worship the consecrated bread in the “cult of adoration” (RC CCC para. 1378). And if he is fully present at all times locally everywhere, then what does the Ascension mean for them personally? Becomes more of a temporary state? An historical event of limited significance since he then essentially immediately and fully returned and is never gone from anywhere? Guess this is why I do find the Reformed view so fascinating. Taking a very “high” view of the act and meaning of the Ascension.

      1. Though being EO, I always have to ponder these awesome mysteries relying on our apophatic ways! So I retreat from any ultimate certainty or unnecessary speculation. 🙂

        Though it does point out to me the importance of “Lift up your hearts” in the liturgy and the ultimate value and meaning of a full epiclesis.

      2. Yes, amen, but I am always more toward the Judeo-Christian reality and history myself, both the Jewish Hellenistic and the Greco-Roman! Here for me is the great place of the historic “Biblicism”! 🙂

  3. I like the way Bard Thompson discusses the issue in his Liturgies of the Western Church (Fortress Press, 1961). He talks about the influence of Farel from the 1520s which Calvin took up in his liturgics, “…the Reformed Sursum corda: Therefore lift up your hearts on high, seeking the heavenly things in heaven, where Jesus Christ is seated at tha the right hand of the Father; and do not fix your eyes on the visible signs….” Bucer’s liturgy isn’t quite as explicit, but of course he, too, talks of the bread of heaven.

    1. Yes… Heb. 12: 2 comes to mind, this reality in Hebrews about Christ “sitting” (seated)…Heb. 1: 3, in Heaven…”the Majesty on high” is both biblical and thus theological reality! The Holy Scripture, especially the NT fulfillment does have “spatial” reality!

  4. Really experienced our discussion at liturgy today. The very high Anglo-Catholic priest’s sermon on Sunday After the Ascension had a strong Eucharistic presence theme, even using RC transubstantiation language from Aristotle’s ancient pseudo-science (e.g., accidents). His point was that Christ is still fully present in the eucharist, in each church and tabernacle. So Christ was only “absent” for the briefest of time, essentially until the first post-Ascension liturgy and he hasn’t been absent ever since physically. No wonder the Ascension gets short shrift? Seems to me to cause serious problems in regard to the need for the Comforter and the Comforter’s ongoing role in the life of the Church and believers. Including the epiclesis in the liturgy! Always the need for balance. An excess in one area leads to a deficit in another? Here a proper Pneumatology suffers?

    1. No short shrift here in regard to The Ascension: Jesus Himself said that “If I do not go The Spirit will not come…” also, “you will do Greater things than these because I Go To The Father…”. It is precisely because of The Holy Spirit/The Comforter that Jesus is made Fully Present in The Eucharist (Body, Blood, Soul, Divinity) while still going to and remaining at – the right hand of God The Father – to leave and yet to stay!
      Once Christ ‘Instituted The Holy Eucharist’ – at The Last Supper – HE has never been “absent” – this was for ALL times & ALL places until the END of time!
      The Most Holy Trinity is… ‘Perfect Unity’ – a Pneumatology that is far beyond our capacity to sequester in ‘Time’ – of which The very Essence Alone is bound only by INFINITY!

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