Today is the fortieth day of the Easter season. The Church celebrates Christ's ascension to heaven (Luke 24:44-53; Acts 1:1-11). Today is one of the principal festivals of the church year. This festival has been included in the church's calendar since the fourth century.
Prayer of the Day
your only Son was taken into the heavens
and in your presence intercedes for us.
Receive us and our prayers for all the world,
and in the end bring everything into your glory,
through Jesus Christ, our Sovereign and Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever.
In today’s gospel the risen Christ ascends into heaven and his followers are assured that the Spirit will empower them to be witnesses throughout the earth. The disciples were told to not gaze up into heaven to look for Jesus; we find his presence among us as we proclaim the word and share the Easter feast. We too long for the Spirit to enliven our faith and invigorate our mission.
Then he said to them, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you — that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled." Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high."
Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.
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Cyril of Alexandria wrote regarding the Ascension of Our Lord, "As man then, Jesus appeared before the Father on our behalf, to enable us whom original sin had excluded from his presence once more to see the Father's face. As the Son he took his seat to enable us as sons and daughters through him to be called children of God. So Paul, who claims to speak for Christ, teaching that the whole human race has a share in the events of Christ's life, says that God has raised us up with him and enthroned us with him in heaven. To Christ as the Son by nature belongs the prerogative of sitting at the Father's side; this honor can rightly and truly be ascribed to him alone. Yet because his having become man means that he sits there as one who is in all respects like ourselves, as well as being as we believe God from God, in some mysterious way he passes this honor on to us."
Illustration: The Ascension of Christ, by Salvador Dali