Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God.
What is Ascension Day?
Ascension Day is the 40th day of Easter. It occurs 39 days after Easter Sunday. It is a Christian holiday that commemorates Jesus Christ’s ascension into heaven according to Christian belief. Ascension Day marks the 40th day after Jesus Christ’s resurrection according to Christian belief. This year, it falls on May 25.
Ascension at Trinity
This weekend we celebrate our Lord’s ascension. (Ascension Day falls 40 days after Easter Sunday. This year that date is May 25. Our custom at Trinity is to celebrate the festival on the following Sunday.) One of the unique features of today’s Scripture lessons is that Luke ends his Gospel with the ascension and then begins the book of Acts with another account of the ascension. In both accounts Jesus instructs his disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they receive God’s power (the special outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost) and then to proclaim the Gospel beginning in Jerusalem and radiating outward to the ends of the earth. Today’s Epistle lesson from Ephesians 1 alludes to Christ’s ascension as Paul points to the ascended Christ as “head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:22-23). To him all majesty ascribe, and crown him Lord of all!
Ascension in the Christian Church
Excerpts from “The Forgotten Holiday” from the Lutheran Witness by Dr. Albert B. Coliver
When you think of the most important days of the year, what comes to mind? For most Christians, the most important days of the year are Christmas and Easter. Yet, in times past, Christians would not have answered only with Christmas and Easter, but also with Christ’s ascension into heaven. In fact, the Ascension is an ecumenical feast that is celebrated throughout the Christian Church. While some church bodies may have special days, saints’ days, or commemorations on their calendar that are not found in others, the Ascension is celebrated throughout the Church on earth along with the Passion, Easter, and Pentecost. Christ’s resurrection from the dead, descent into hell, and ascension into heaven are His exaltation, His glorious triumph over sin, death, and the devil.
The importance of Christ’s ascension into heaven is the reason it is celebrated in the Church. The emphasis on the Ascension in the Church Year was so great, particularly in the 16th century, that it became a secular holiday and remains so in many European nations, e.g., Germany, the Netherlands, France, Switzerland, and the Nordic countries.