"... you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8), this is what Jesus Christ said to his disciples in the olive mountain - Jerusalem, promising them that they will receive the blessing of the Holy Spirit that brings them closer to the kingdom of God.
Jesus blessed his disciples and began to rise to heaven, “When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.” To be followed with two angels promising the return of Jesus in the same way he had ascended to heaven, "They said, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going to heaven.” (Acts 1:11).
This divine ascension took place 40 days after the resurrection of Jesus Christ, “he presented himself alive to them” (Acts 1:3), after the completion of the work of redemption and salvation of mankind, as he ascended to heaven and returned to his Father to elevate humanity into the heart of the Heavenly Father. This event was mentioned in the Gospel of Luke chapter 24 and Acts 1 and has several meanings.
The Catholic Church celebrates the Ascension this year on May 13, while the Orthodox Church celebrates it on June 10. The Ascension is the glorification of Jesus Christ, Son and Word of God, who returned to heaven, the abode of divinity from where he descended, to care for people and forgive them. As he ascended and descended, the heaven was linked to earth. “Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see the sky opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” (John 1:51) With this ascension, Jesus fulfilled his mission and sat at the right hand of God to be crowned king and reign over the universe. “Then Jesus approached and said to them, "All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (Matthew 28:18)
Saint Paul the Apostle stresses on the victory that Jesus Christ achieved through crucifixion and obedience that distinguished him. The Ascension is also the final entry of the humanity of Jesus Christ into the Heavenly House of God, from where he will return, he who embodied human flesh and rose from the dead. This divine event is a prelude to the return of the Lord in his second coming in the end of times, when he will return from heaven as he ascended.
The Ascension is also the Church's glorification of the coming of the Holy Spirit, as Jesus ascended to heaven and sent this Spirit to his disciples as he had previously promised them on the olive mountain. Jesus was no longer with people in a limited way, but rather an unlimited way, and within them. Saint Paul the Apostle addresses Ephesians in his message, saying: “and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith…” (Ephesians 3:17).
The divine Ascension of Jesus Christ came for Jesus to intercede for humanity in the presence of God, "For Christ did not enter into a sanctuary made by hands, a copy of the true one, but heaven itself, that he might now appear before God on our behalf.” (Hebrews 9:24). Thus, the letter to Hebrews presented the event of the Ascension within their aspirations to a heavenly world in which salvation is achieved, where Jesus Christ becomes the only mediator guaranteeing the Holy Spirit, “When he had accomplished purification from sins, he took his seat at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” (Hebrews 1:3). Then, Jesus went up to the kingdom of his father to set a place for people, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?” (John 14: 1. 2); to return to them and take them with him to the kingdom of God where they will remain with him forever.
The Icon of the Divine Ascension presents two events, the Ascension and the Second Coming of the Lord. It focuses on the presence of the angels in two parts holding many meanings. On one hand, two angels appear behind the Mother of God and among the disciples of Jesus on earth as a reminder of their presence on the olive mountain when the Lord ascended, when they promised his disciples that he would return to them after His ascension to heaven. The color of their clothing is white, the color of light that triumphed over darkness, and an indication of the extension of Resurrection. On the other hand, the presence of two angels, or sometimes four, in the upper part of the icon, as they accompany Jesus in his ascension. The color of their clothing changes from one icon to another between deep red, golden, green and blue… These colors symbolize the heavenly glory and to Jesus Christ, second of the Holy Trinity. The accompaniment of angels is similar to “the accompaniment of servants to their king,” announcing the “arrival of the victorious Lord to the kingdom.”
In an effort to commemorate the Lord's ascension to heaven, a shrine was built on the top of the olive mountain in Jerusalem. In 378, Mrs. Pomina, a member of the emperor's family, established a Byzantine church called “Ambomen”, meaning “on the high ground,” in the form of a circular building without a roof in order to guide people through the path of heaven. In the center, is the blessed rock where Jesus Christ rose, leaving his footprints. In 614, Khosrau, the King of Persia, demolished the Shrine of the Assumption, and after two years, His Beatitude Patriarch Modestus restored the church. However, in 1009, the church was demolished again by order of the ruling Fatimid Sultan B’amrallah Mansour bin Aziz. In the twelfth century, an octagonal-shaped church was built by the Crusaders on the rubble, with a round building in the center of which lies an altar located on the rock of Ascension.
Salah Al Din Al Ayoubi destroyed the church in 1187, while the small shrine remained standing in the middle. Muslims then built a dome for the shrine in 1200 without no crosses or crescents on top, but instead, a marble column as a sign of the shrine being a place of prayer for all believers. Franciscan priests and priests and believers of all sects, like the Greek Orthodox, Armenians, Copts and Syriacs, go annually to this shrine on the Ascension Day eve to spend the night in tents and meet with the people in the morning to participate in religious celebrations and special prayers.