The origin of…Ascension Day

“The unseen essential awaits your enlightened heart’s ascension to love.” Brian McGill

Post 80 Ascension day

Ascension Day commemorates the bodily Ascension of Jesus into heaven and is celebrated 40 days after Easter on a Thursday (between April 30 and June 3).. In the Catholic Church it is also known as the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord.
In the Eastern Church it is known in Greek as Analepsis, the taking up, or as the Episozomene, the salvation from on high, meaning that by ascending into his glory Christ completed the work of our redemption.

For forty days after his Resurrection (celebrated at Easter), Jesus remained on earth and appeared to many of his disciples. By eating and drinking with his followers and conversing with them about the Kingdom of God, Jesus assured them that he was truly alive in his risen and glorified body. On the 40th day, he came again to the Apostles and gave them his last commandment: to preach the Kingdom of God and the repentance and forgiveness of sins in his name to all nations, beginning with Jerusalem. Then he led them out to the Mount of Olives where he instructed them to wait in Jerusalem for the promise of the Holy Spirit. Then, as they were watching, he ascended into the clouds. While they were looking up, two angels appeared and said to them that, just as he ascended, Jesus would return in glory. The Ascension is therefore a sign and symbol of the Second Coming and is along with Christ’s birth, crucifixion, and resurrection, one of the major events of his earthly ministry.

According to Augustine of Hippo, an early Christian theologian and philosopher, the Feast of Ascension is of apostolic origin. John Chrysostom and Gregory of Nyssa, contemporaries of Augustine, refer to it as being one of the oldest feasts practiced by the Church, possibly going as far back as AD 68, however the first written evidence of the Ascension Day feast occurred in 385 AD.

Since Ascension Day is an Ecumenical feast and one of the six holy days, attendance at mass is mandatory for Roman Catholics and Anglicans. During mass, the Paschal candle, which was lit on Easter Sunday, is extinguished.
The Sunday after Ascension is the Sunday of the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council at Nicaea. This council formulated the Nicene Creed with the words: “He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father. He will come again with glory to judge the living and the dead. His kingdom will never end.” (
At the end of the seven-day devotion, priests add two additional days, totaling nine days (novena), according to the directions of Pope Leo XIII. The novena allows for the preparation of Pentecost, which takes place the next day and marks the end of the Easter season.

More info:

Ascension Day:
the Thursday 40 days after Easter observed in commemoration of Christ’s ascension into Heaven (source: Merriam Webster).

The English word ascension; Spanish ascensión and Italian ascensione come from Latin ascensionem (nominative ascensio) “a rising,” noun of action from past participle stem of ascendere “to mount, ascend, go up” (see ascend). Astronomical sense is recorded late 14c.; meaning “action of ascending” is from 1590s. Related: Ascensional.

Ascension Day in other languages:
Dutch: de Hemelvaartsdag
Spanish: el Día de la Ascensión
Italian: L´Ascensione di Gesù

Picture: Jesus’ ascension to heaven depicted by John Singleton Copley, 1775


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