Ascension is a term that refers to the belief that Jesus Christ ascended into heaven after his resurrection from the dead. Ascension is one of the core doctrines of Christianity, as it affirms the divinity and glory of Christ, as well as his ongoing presence and role in the world.
What is ascension and how is it described in the Bible?
Ascension is the belief that Jesus Christ ascended into heaven after his resurrection from the dead. According to the New Testament, Jesus appeared to his disciples and followers for 40 days after his resurrection, teaching them about the kingdom of God and giving them instructions for their mission. On the 40th day, he led them to the Mount of Olives, near Jerusalem, where he blessed them and was lifted up into a cloud, out of their sight. Two angels then appeared to them and told them that Jesus would return in the same way that he had gone.
The main biblical passages that describe the ascension are found in Luke 24:50-53, Acts 1:1-11, Mark 16:19-20, and Matthew 28:16-20. However, there are also other references and allusions to the ascension in other parts of the New Testament, such as John 20:17, Ephesians 4:8-10, Hebrews 4:14-16, 1 Peter 3:22, Revelation 5:6-14, etc.
What are the theological implications and benefits of ascension?
Ascension has several theological implications and benefits for Christians. Some of these are:
- Ascension affirms the divinity and glory of Christ. By ascending into heaven, Jesus demonstrated his power and authority over all creation. He also fulfilled his own prophecy that he would be exalted to the right hand of God (Mark 14:62). He also received the honor and praise that he deserved as the Son of God and the Savior of the world.
- Ascension confirms the completion and success of Christ’s work. By ascending into heaven, Jesus showed that he had accomplished his mission of dying for our sins and rising from the dead. He also secured our salvation and forgiveness by presenting his sacrifice to God as our high priest (Hebrews 9:24). He also inaugurated his reign as the King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:16).
- Ascension assures the ongoing presence and role of Christ. By ascending into heaven, Jesus did not abandon or forsake his followers. He promised that he would be with them always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20). He also sent them the Holy Spirit as their helper, guide, and comforter (John 16:7). He also intercedes for them before God as their advocate (Romans 8:34). He also prepares a place for them in his Father’s house (John 14:2).
How is ascension celebrated and commemorated in the Christian calendar?
Ascension is celebrated and commemorated in the Christian calendar as a major feast or festival. The date of ascension is determined by counting 40 days from Easter Sunday, which is based on the biblical account. Therefore, ascension always falls on a Thursday, usually between April 30 and June 3.
The celebration of ascension varies among different Christian traditions and denominations. Some common elements include:
- Liturgy: The worship service for ascension may include readings from Scripture, prayers, hymns, sermons, and sacraments that focus on the theme of ascension. Some of the biblical texts that are often used are Psalm 47, Psalm 93, Daniel 7:13-14, Acts 1:1-11, Ephesians 1:15-23, and Luke 24:44-53.
- Procession: The worship service for ascension may also include a procession or a pilgrimage to a nearby hill or mountain, symbolizing the Mount of Olives where Jesus ascended. The procession may involve carrying a cross, a banner, or an image of Christ. The procession may also end with a blessing or a benediction.
- Ascension Day Prayer: The worship service for ascension may also include a special prayer that expresses gratitude and praise to God for the ascension of Christ. One example of such a prayer is:
Almighty God, whose blessed Son our Savior Jesus Christ ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things: Mercifully give us faith to perceive that, according to his promise, he abides with his Church on earth, even to the end of the ages; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
How is ascension represented and portrayed in Christian art?
Ascension is represented and portrayed in Christian art in various forms and styles. Some of the common elements include:
- Christ: The main figure in ascension art is Christ, who is usually depicted as rising or floating in the air, surrounded by a halo or a cloud. He may also be shown with his hands raised in blessing or his wounds visible. He may also be wearing a white robe or a red cloak, symbolizing his purity or his royalty.
- Disciples: The secondary figures in ascension art are the disciples, who are usually depicted as looking up at Christ or kneeling in awe or worship. They may also be shown with various expressions or gestures, such as joy, sorrow, wonder, or fear. They may also be wearing different colors or clothing, indicating their diversity or identity.
- Angels: The tertiary figures in ascension art are the angels, who are usually depicted as flying or standing near Christ or the disciples. They may also be shown with wings, halos, or instruments, such as trumpets or harps. They may also be speaking or singing, announcing or praising Christ’s ascension.
Some examples of famous ascension artworks are:
- The Ascension by Rembrandt (1636): This painting shows Christ ascending in a bright light, while the disciples gaze at him with various emotions. The painting uses contrast and perspective to create a dramatic and realistic effect.
- The Ascension by Giotto (1305): This fresco shows Christ ascending in a blue sky, while the disciples kneel and pray at his feet. The fresco uses simple and elegant lines and colors to create a harmonious and serene effect.
- The Ascension by Salvador Dali (1958): This painting shows Christ ascending in a geometric and surreal space, while his mother Mary looks at him with devotion. The painting uses distortion and symbolism to create a modern and mystical effect.
Ascension is the belief that Jesus Christ ascended into heaven after his resurrection from the dead. Ascension has several theological implications and benefits for Christians, such as affirming the divinity and glory of Christ, confirming the completion and success of Christ’s work, and assuring the ongoing presence and role of Christ. Ascension is celebrated and commemorated in the Christian calendar as a major feast or festival, usually on a Thursday, 40 days after Easter Sunday. Ascension is represented and portrayed in Christian art in various forms and styles, usually featuring Christ, the disciples, and the angels. Ascension is a core doctrine of Christianity that inspires faith, hope, and love in God and his Son.