Ascension and Mystery

The Ascension of the Lord is a great celebration of the Church. It commemorates the bodily ascension of Jesus into heaven. According to St. Luke it occurred 40 days after the Resurrection (Acts 1:3). It is a feast of great antiquity with liturgies and art of the 4th century already addressing it as a norm of the Church. In the Eastern Church this feast is known in Greek as Analepsis, the “taking up,” and also as the Episozomene, the “salvation from on high,” indicating that by ascending into his glory Christ completed the work of our redemption.

Especially in Western Europe, the Feast of the Ascension, falling on Thursday, traditionally has been a public holiday, allowing the faithful to participate in the holy day of obligation. In modern times, there are no mid-week public holidays in most places, and so, celebration of the feast diminished. There are many Christian traditions that do not celebrate the Ascension. In the early 1990s the Vatican gave permission for the local bishop to move the observance of the Feast of the Ascension from the traditional Thursday to the following Sunday, the Sunday before Pentecost. The permission to move was given so that the faithful might maintain contact with the importance of the feast. Continue reading