4 Jun 2011

Ascension

Ancient tradition held that Ascension fell 40 days after Easter but for various reasons, the Irish bishops moved the celebration of the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord to the Sunday following the traditional date which we celebrate this year on June 5th.


"As he said this he was lifted up while they looked on, and a cloud took him from their sight. They were still staring into the sky when suddenly two men in white were standing near them and they said, ‘Why are you men from Galilee standing here looking into the sky? Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven, this same Jesus will come back in the same way as you have seen him go there.’" (Acts 1: 1-11)


The Ascension of Jesus is the Christian teaching found in the New Testament when the resurrected Jesus was taken up to heaven in his resurrected body, in the presence of eleven of his apostles, occurring 40 days after the resurrection. An angel told the watching disciples that Jesus' second coming would take place in the same manner as his ascension. The Ascension of Jesus is professed in the Nicene Creed and in the Apostles' Creed. The Ascension implies Jesus' humanity being taken into heaven. The familiar account of Jesus ascending bodily into the clouds is given fully only in the Acts of the Apostles, but is briefly described also in the Gospel of Luke (often considered to be by the same author) at 24:50–53 and in the ending of Mark 16 at 16:19

In Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox theology, the Ascension is interpreted as the culmination of the Mystery of the Incarnation, in that it not only marked the completion of Jesus' physical presence among his apostles, but consummated the union of God and man when Jesus ascended in his glorified human body to sit at the right hand of God the Father. The Ascension and the Transfiguration both figure prominently in the Orthodox doctrine of theosis. The bodily Ascension into heaven is also understood as the final token of Christ's two natures: divine and human.

In his homily for Ascension, Deacon Greg notes that:
"It is tempting on this feast of the Ascension to experience it the way the apostles did, to gaze into the heavens and to ponder the clouds and to pray over the miracle of this great moment.But Christ’s words to his apostles are words to us all. ‘Go.’ The world will not be converted on a mountaintop. The message will not be spread in the clouds. It will happen in the streets and the synagogues, in public squares and private homes, in books and newspapers and media of all kinds. It needs to be lived in the world"

Reflections on the feast from:  
  • Pat Gohn makes the point that if the Gospels are the original words and deeds of Jesus, the Ascension sets the stage for the sequel -- "The Last Days" -- until the Second Coming. Ascension: Cue the sequel.
  • Fr Robert Barron's Word on Fire

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