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The feast of the Ascension of our Lord, is an important day in the Orthodox Christian calendar, as it marks the completion of Jesus’ mission on Earth. Naturally, icons of the feast are a great blessing for every household.
The feast is celebrated on the 40th day after the Resurrection of Christ. This year it falls on 10th June. On this day, we also celebrate the female name Analipsis (Ascension, in Greek).
The event of the Ascension of Christ is described by the Evangelists Mark (6, 19), Luke (24, 50-52) and John (6, 62 and 20,17), as well as in the book of the Acts of the Apostles (1, 2-9), in the epistles of Paul (Eph 4, 8-10, Heb 4, 14 and 7, 26, Tim 3, 16) and in the 1st Catholic Epistle of St Peter (3, 22).
The place of the Ascension
Based on descriptions from the New Testament, the Ascension took place on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem in front of the disciples, who watched in awe as their Master was rising. The patriarchal tradition emphasizes the supernatural character of the Ascension of our Lord, which was included in the dogmatic teaching of the Church with the characteristic reference to the Creed ("ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father and He shall come again in glory ... »). What is evident though, in both the Acts of the Apostles and the Creed, is the relation of the Ascension with the Second Coming of Christ.
During the first centuries (AD), the Church used to celebrate the Ascension on the same day as the Pentecost. It was not until the 4th century that each feast differentiated progressively from one another, and each gained its own distinct character.
You ascended in glory, O Christ our God, after You filled the Disciples with joy, by promising to send them the Holy Spirit, and You blessed them and established their faith, that You are the Son of God, the Redeemer of the world.
“The Lord was taken up to heaven, in order to send the Holy Spirit to the world. The heavens prepared His throne; the clouds were the means of His approach. Angels marvel, seeing a human being higher than themselves. The Father receives Him whom He has coeternal in His bosom.The Holy Spirit gives the order to all His Angels, "Lift up the gates, O you rulers. Oh, clap your hands, all you nations! For Christ has ascended to where He was before."
Our Lord Jesus Christ, after His glorious Resurrection from the dead, did not immediately leave the world, but continued to appear to His disciples for forty days (Acts 1: 3). The appearances of the Resurrected Christ to His disciples were of great importance to them. The former skeptical and frightened disciples had to experience the fact of their Master's Resurrection in order to eliminate any hesitation or doubt for Him.
On the 40th day, according to St Luke the Evangelist, the Lord brought His disciples to Bethany, in the Mount of Olives where they usually prayed. "And after He lifted up His hands, and blessed them." (Luke 24, 50) and "blessing them, He departed from them, and was carried up into Heaven" until they lost sight of him. And after they had worshiped Him, they returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were staying at the temple, praising and glorifying God.
St Mark describes the event in a more concise manner. He states that right after the Lord gave His disciples the mission to preach throughout the world and baptize the nations, “he ascended into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they that went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word through the accompanying signs” (Mark 16: 19-20).
This blessing is the beginning of Pentecost. Our Lord ascends in order to send the comforting Spirit, as we read at the troparion of the feast “You ascended in glory, O Christ our God, after You filled the Disciples with joy, by promising to send them the Holy Spirit, and You blessed them”
He ascended but He did not abandon His flock
Our Lord Jesus Christ ascended into heaven, but he did not abandon the human race, for which He shed His righteous Blood. He may have sat at the right hand of His Father in the glorious Heavens, but His presence extends to the earth as well as to the ends of creation. Christ justify His Church on earth, which is His very resurrected, incorruptible body, as the means for salvation for everyone who wants to be saved. The soul of His body is the Comforter God, "the Spirit of truth" (John 15:26), Who rested on the holy day of Pentecost on earth, to remain until the end of the world.
Salvation takes place by becoming one body in the Body of Christ. This is what He meant when He promised His disciples, "Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:20).