For 39 days after his Resurrection, Christ is present, in his glorified body, with his disciples. On this day, he takes his Apostles to the Mount of Olives, where he instructs them to wait in Jerusalem for the promised Holy Spirit. In their sight, he Ascends into the clouds. Recall the Gospel passage:
When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.
While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them.
They said, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.”
Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away.
(Acts of the Apostles, 1:9-12)
Why does he do this? To show that we, too shall rise from the grave with our glorified bodies and ascend
St. John Chrysostom and Gregory of Nyssa refer to the Ascension as one of the oldest Feasts practiced by the Church, even as far back as 68 A.D. Written evidence only dates back to the fourth century.
The Franciscan Custody of the Holy land celebrates the Ascension in the place that, by tradition, commemorates this event. It begins on the eve with 1st Vespers. Prayers and masses are celebrated throughout the night, both inside the small chapel and on outside altars. The celebration ends the next morning with a Solemn Mass, celebrated by the Custos of the Holy Land.
The Franciscan Foundation of the Holy Land have published a more detailed account of the site and celebration on their website, at this link.
In 2021, the Feast of the Ascension is celebrated 13 May in the Western Church and 10 June in the Eastern Church.
Photo Copyright: © Nadim Asfour/CTS
H. Morlet & N. Halloun. (n.d.). Franciscans Celebrate the Ascension in the Holy Land Where It Happened. Franciscan Foundation of the Holy Land. Retrieved April 23, 2021, from https://ffhl.org/catholic-media-franciscans-celebrate-the-ascension-in-holy-land/
Katski, D. (n.d.). What is Ascension Day? Share Faith. Retrieved April 23, 2021, from https://www.sharefaith.com/guide/Christian-Holidays/ascension-day-meaning.html
Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.