The Ascension of the Lord

About the Ascension of the Lord

The Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, a Holy Day of Obligation, celebrates the day that Christ, in the presence of His apostles, ascended bodily into heaven. The Ascension occurred on the 40th day of Easter, so it falls on a Thursday, and thus it is often called Ascension Thursday. 

Ascension Thursday is one of the earliest Christian festivals dating back to the first century. According to the New Testament, Jesus Christ met several times with the disciples during the 40 days after His Resurrection to instruct them on how to carry out His teachings. It is believed that on the 40th day He took them to the Mount of Olives, where they watched as He ascended to Heaven.

The reality of Christ's Ascension is so important that the creeds (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."  The denial of the Ascension is as grave a departure from the Christian teaching as in denial of Christ's Resurrection. 

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 Judgment. In redeeming mankind, Christ not only offered salvation to our souls but began the restoration of the material world itself to the glory that God intended before Adam's fall.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC668) states: "Christ's Ascension into Heaven signifies His participation, in His humanity, in God's power and authority."

The feast of the Ascension marks the beginning of the first novena or nine days of prayer. 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.