This Orthodox icon shows the moment described in the Acts of the Apostles 6.1-14. Having gathered his apostles for the last time, Jesus was taken up into heaven and a cloud hid him from their sight.
We must remember that the Bible uses richly symbolic language to describe profound mysteries. We know that although ‘heaven’ is symbolised by ‘up there’ God himself is really what is meant by ‘heaven’ - and God is everywhere present, filling all things.
The language of ‘ascent’ points to Jesus returning to his Father, just as at Christmas, he came ‘down’ into the world – ‘down’ symbolises his humility and ‘up’ symbolises his exaltation. The cloud is a typical sign in the Bible of the presence of God.
The Ascension means that Jesus returned to the Father having completed the work he had been given to do: the salvation of the world from sin and death through his passion and resurrection, so that we could share the very life of God.
After the Ascension the apostles awaited the coming of the Holy Spirit whom Jesus had promised to send from God the Father. But neither they nor we were ever meant to just stand around gazing after him into heaven!
Empowered by the Spirit, we too are commissioned to tell the world the good news of God’s love and invite everyone to follow Christ.
Risen, ascended Lord,
as we rejoice at your triumph,
fill your Church on earth with power and compassion,
that all who are estranged by sin
may find forgiveness and know your peace,
to the glory of God the Father.