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The Feast of the Ascension

The Ascension of the Lord is celebrated officially on the Thursday after the 6th Sunday of Easter, but we are keeping it on Sunday.


This Orthodox icon shows the moment 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. The Bible uses symbolic language to describe profound mysteries. We know that while ‘heaven’ is symbolised by ‘up above’ 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’ symbolising his humility and ‘up’ symbolising his exaltation. The cloud is a typical biblical sign 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 stand around gazing after him into heaven. Rather, empowered by the Spirit, we are commissioned to go and proclaim the good news of God’s love made known in Christ. In these days between Ascension and Pentecost, we pray for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Church.


Prayers


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.


Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful

and kindle in them the fire of your love.


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