Ascension Day is the Christian celebration of Jesus rising into Heaven after He had spent 40 days on Earth after the Resurrection. Ascension Day is celebrated forty days after Easter Sunday on Ascension Thursday. This date is also ten days before the celebration of the Pentecost.
The Christian belief is that after Jesus died on the cross on Good Friday, He rose from the dead on Easter Sunday. Jesus then walked the Earth among His followers for forty days, continually teaching about the Kingdom of Heaven.
The fortieth day, Jesus was eating, drinking and speaking among His followers. At this time, Jesus had “commanded” His disciples “that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but should wait for the promise of the Father, which you have heard (saith he) by my mouth.” After all was spoken to His followers, Acts 1:9 states “And when he had said these things, while they looked on, he was raised up: and a cloud received him out of their sight.”
According to the New Testament, the event of the Ascension occurred on Mount Olivet (Mount of Olives). The reading of Acts 1:12 states “Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount that is called Olivet, which is nigh Jerusalem, within a Sabbath day’s journey.”
Another mention of the Ascension occurs in the Gospel of St. Luke 24:50-51. The verses state “And he led them out as far as Bethania: and lifting up his hands, he blessed them. And it came to pass, whilst he blessed them he departed from them, and was carried up to heaven.” St. Mark also mentions the Ascension of Jesus in Chapter 16:19 stating “And the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sitteth on the right hand of God.”
In The Lost Books of the Bible, there is a mention of the Ascension by Jesus himself. Located in The Epistles of Jesus Christ and Abgarus King of Edessa, Jesus responds to the King, via Ananias the footman, to the King’s request of a healing visitation. “But after my ascension, I will send one of my disciples, who will cure your disease, and give life to you, and all that are with you.”
King David wrote a prophecy of the Ascension in The Book of Psalms 67:19. King David stated: “Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive; thou hast received gifts in men.” This Psalm is located in Psalms 68:18 of the New King James version of the Bible.
Unfortunately, there are not detailed mentions of the Ascension in the Holy Bible. One theory is based on how the apostles were dealing with all these events. There was a whirlwind of events occurring in a short amount of time. Jesus came to teach and He also performed miracles; He died; He rose from the dead; and then He reappeared on Earth for forty days. The fortieth day, he ascended into Heaven as the apostles watched. Ten days later, some of the followers were visited by the Holy Spirit on Pentecost and were able to speak many languages. There was so much activity taking place including the death of their friend and mentor that perhaps they did not want to write very much regarding the Ascension.
Another theory arises from the importance of the Ascension itself. Perhaps the Ascension was not to be an important event recorded in the Bible. Jesus ascending into Heaven was not His purpose on this Earth. His purpose was to tell the world about the Kingdom of Heaven, to show all people the way to the Kingdom of Heaven, and to save all souls who follow God. Therefore, the Ascension was not an event the apostles thought to be important. Perhaps the writing about the Ascension was discussed by Jesus with His apostles before He left this Earth.
The actual Ascension Day celebration is forty days after Easter Sunday on Ascension Thursday. For the Roman Catholics, Ascension Thursday is one of the six Holy Days of which mandatory attendance at mass is required. However, Roman Catholic Church provinces throughout the United States have been allowed move the celebration day to the following Sunday so that more Catholics will have the opportunity to celebrate this important time in the life of Jesus and not be in violation of missing a Holy Day service.
The Greek Orthodox Church celebrates the Feast of the Ascension by holding evening prayers or “Great Vespers” during the eve of Ascension Day. On Ascension Day, the celebration includes “the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom.preceded by the Matins service.”
Different traditions are held throughout the world to celebrate Ascension Day. Some churches may bless the first fruits of which grapes and beans are blessed; some churches hold mass in which the Easter candle, lit on Easter, is extinguished; some churches hold processions with parishioners carrying torches; and some churches actually have a statue of Jesus rising through the roof of the church symbolic to when Jesus rose into the heavens.
When is Ascension Day
Ascension Day is a floating holiday that falls forty days after Easter. It always falls on a Thursday, but the date changes yearly.