Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord
Forty Days after the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Acts of the Apostles records Jesus’ ascension into heaven. The ascension is an important Christian feast attesting and celebrating the reality of the God-Man Jesus Christ’s returning to the Father, to return again in the future parousia. Doctrinally the Ascension is very important. With the resurrection, it is one more proof of Jesus’ legitimacy as the Christ and Prophet. The Ascension is also the event whereby humanity was taken into heaven. The ascension was also the “final blow” so-to-speak against Satan’s power, and thus the lion (Jesus) conquering the dragon (Satan) is a symbol of the ascension. Early Christian art and iconography portrayed the ascension frequently, showing its importance to the early Church.
Evidence from John Chrysostom, Egeria, and Church historian Socrates, suggest that Ascension Day probably originated in the 4th century AD. However, Augustine says the festival is apostolic. Often the feast was celebrated with a procession, symbolizing Christ’s journey to the Mount of Olives. Until rather recently, the Paschal Candle (lighted at the Easter Vigil) was extinguished on Ascension Day. It is often celebrated as an octave, the proper preface and Ascension collect being used until the Saturday before Pentecost.