The Ascension of Our Lord, which occurred 40 days after Jesus Christ rose from the dead on Easter, is the final act of our redemption that Christ began on Good Friday. On this day, the risen Christ, in the sight of His apostles, ascended bodily into Heaven (Luke 24:51; Mark 16:19; Acts 1:9-11).
- Date: Forty days after Easter Sunday (though, in many ecclesiastical provinces of the United States, the celebration is transferred to the following Sunday). See When Is Ascension? for the dates of both Ascension Thursday and Ascension Sunday in this and future years.
- Type of Feast: Solemnity; Holy Day of Obligation. (See Is Ascension a Holy Day of Obligation? for more details.)
- Readings: Acts 1:1-11; Psalm 47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9; Ephesians 1:17-23 or 4:1-13 or 4:1-7, 11-13; Mark 16:15-20 (full text here)
Prayers: Novena to the Holy Ghost; Collect for the Feast of the Ascension (from the Mass of St. Pius V):
Grant, we beseech Thee, almighty God, that we who believe Thine only-begotten Son, our Redeemer, to have this day ascended into heaven, may dwell in spirit amid heavenly things. Through the same Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.
- Other Names for the Feast: Ascension of the Lord, Ascension of Christ, Ascension of Jesus, Ascension Day, Ascension Thursday
History of the Ascension of Our Lord
The reality of Christ's Ascension is so important that the creeds (the basic statements of belief) of Christianity all affirm, in the words of the Apostles' Creed, that "He ascended into heaven, sits at the right hand of God the Father almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead." The denial of the Ascension is as grave a departure from Christian teaching as is denial of Christ's Resurrection.
Christ's bodily Ascension foreshadows our own entrance into Heaven not simply as souls, after our death, but as glorified bodies, after the resurrection of the dead at the Final Judgment. In redeeming mankind, Christ not only offered salvation to our souls but began the restoration of the material world itself to the glory that God intended before Adam's fall.
The Feast of the Ascension marks the beginning of the first novena, or nine days of prayer. Before His Ascension, Christ promised to send the Holy Spirit to His apostles. Their prayer for the coming of the Holy Spirit, which began on Ascension Thursday, ended with the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday, ten days later.
Today, Catholics recall that first novena by praying the Novena to the Holy Ghost between Ascension and Pentecost, asking for the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the fruits of the Holy Spirit. You can take part in the novena by signing up for a free e-mail reminder for the Novena to the Holy Ghost.