Ascension of Our Lord

In Christian theology, the Death, Resurrection and Exaltation of Jesus are the most important events, and a foundation of the Christian faith. Easter is the most important festival in the Christian Calendar. It celebrates God raising His Son, Jesus, from the dead, which for Christians symbolizes Jesus’ destruction of the power of sin and the possibility of an after life in Heaven.

Christians remember the events of the last week of Jesus’ life (before the crucifixion) during the Holy Week. Holy Week ends with Easter Sunday which is the day when Christians celebrate Jesus’ resurrection.

Christians believe that Jesus truly defeated death, by ascending to Heaven after His resurrection. Jesus rose from the dead, 40 days after His resurrection, Jesus left the Earth and ascended into heaven, body and soul to re-join God the Father. This event is called the ascension, and it was witnessed by Jesus’ eleven remaining apostles.

In the Bible, the book called the Acts of the Apostles 1, 6-11, describes this event and how angels, described as ‘men dressed in white’, helped the apostles to understand what was happening. They were looking intently up into the sky as He was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood before them. “Men of Galilee, ‘they said, ‘why do you stand here looking at the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven” Acts 1:9-11.

The ascension is important to Christians because:

  • It shows that Jesus had overcome death. He wasn’t just resurrected, but to live forever.
  • For many Christians, the fact that Jesus’ followers witnessing Him ascending leaves no doubt that Jesus is alive and is with God the Father in Heaven.
  • The ascension also shows God’s omnipotence (all powerful) and omnibenevolent (the belief that God is all loving)

The reality of Christ’s Ascension is so important that the creed (the basic statements of belief) of Christianity all affirm in the words of the Apostles Creed, that “He ascended into heaven, sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty: From there He shall come to judge the living and the dead”.  Christ’s bodily Ascension foreshadows our own entrance into Heaven not simply as souls, after our death, but as glorified bodies, after the resurrection of the dead at the final Judgement. In redeeming mankind, Christ not only offered Salvation to us but began the restoration of the material world itself to the glory that God intended before Adam’s fall.

Before His Ascension, Christ promised to send the Holy Spirit to His Apostles. Their prayer for the coming of the Holy Spirit, which began on Ascension Thursday, ended with the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday, ten days later.

Today, we Catholics recall the first Novena by praying to the Holy Spirit between Ascension and Pentecost, asking for the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

Mary Pinheiro