Ascension Feast Day
ByzCatholic, Feasts

The Feast of the Ascension

A Quick Recap of the Ascension

The Ascension occurs on the 40th day of Easter, and refers to Jesus’ ascent into Heaven. This feast day marks the completion of our salvation by Christ. He rose into Heaven so that we may join him there. In the Byzantine Churches, it is a Holy day of Obligation. And is one of the 12 Great Feasts of the church year.

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The Ascension was also the last time the Theotokos and the disciples saw Jesus on Earth. It happened at the Mount of Olives, which is also where Jesus wept over Jerusalem and foretold of the destruction of the Temple.

Jesus made three promises that we connect with the feast of the Ascension. The first is His promise to send the Holy Spirit. And the second is the promise to remain with us always, through to the end of time. Finally, His third promise is that He will return in glory for His second coming.

I really like the troparion for the feast. It is:

You have ascended in glory, O Christ our God, granting joy to the disciples by the promise of the Holy Spirit. Through Your blessing they were assured that You are the Son of God, and the Redeemer of the world.

Icon of the Ascension

Christ is at the top of icons of the Ascension. He is usually portrayed as sitting in a cloud, with His right hand out, blessing the disciples. There is a scroll in Jesus’ left hand, which represents His teachings.

Eastern icons of the Ascension show Christ inside of a circle called a mandorla. Angels are present, raising this mandorla heavenward. Although, since Jesus said He would return in the same way he left this icon is also seen as a reflection of the second coming. So the icon can also be viewed as Christ descending back to Earth. Also, the icon captures Jesus while still visible to the disciples, representing how Jesus remains with the Church, even while He returns to the Father.

Mary and the disciples are at the bottom of the icon, representing the church. Mary is central in the Ascension icon. The icon presents her as a pillar of the church. Flanked by two angels dressed in white, the Theotokos has clarity and order in the image. The rest of the earthly part of the image is in confusion and disarray. The disciples do not yet understand the Ascension and must await Pentecost for clarity in their mission. This representation of the Ascension is more metaphorical than historical. This suits the Eastern tradition of focusing on the mystical.

Ways to Celebrate:

There are many ways you can celebrate the Ascension. If you’d like to do some further reading, I recommends looking at St Gregory of Nyssa or St. John Chrysostom’s Ascension homilies.

It is also traditional to partake in a procession for this feast day. This represents the journey the disciples took following Jesus to the Mount of Olives. Since there aren’t a lot of processions you can join in the community, consider going one with your family. Even if it’s just carrying an icon around your back yard.

The Ascension is a Holy Day of obligation. Therefore, going to Church is a great way to celebrate this feast.

Attend an Ascension Vespers and Matins too if it is available in your area and you can make it. There’s a lovely troparion during Matins:

We extol you O Christ, the Giver of life, and we glorify your divine ascension in your most pure body into heaven

If you cant make it to church, you can still read or chant the festal troparions at home. Add it to your daily prayer time, or say it as a family before supper. I also really like the troparion for the feast day Divine Liturgy. It is:

You have ascended in glory, O Christ our God, granting joy to the disciples by the promise of the Holy Spirit. Through Your blessing they were assured that You are the Son of God, and the Redeemer of the world.

Finally, take a look at some of the biblical references to the Ascension and the second coming. There’s Zechariah 14:4, Luke 24: 50-53, Acts 1: 6-11, and 1 Timothy 3:16.

The Byzantine Life

If you liked this week’s article, you might also be interested in reading our post about Praznyks. Or our article on praying with icons.

Don’t forget to follow us on social media. On our Pinterest we have boards full of byzantine icons (including the Ascension icon) and faith based activities! New posts are always shared to Facebook, and my husband runs our Twitter (@LifeByzantine) and Instagram accounts (username: thebyzantinelife)! And if you want to support our work at TheByzantineLife.com, consider joining us on Patreon. For as little as $5 a month you can get exclusive access to special posts, photos, and updates from our family! https://www.patreon.com/thebyzantinelife

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