top of page

The Feast of the Ascension

A silver platter of divinity candy.

The Feast of the Ascension, or Ascension Day, is one of the highest feast days in the liturgical year. It is the day we remember Jesus’ bodily ascent into heaven and its profound significance. The Ascension might suggest sadness since Jesus physically left the earth. However, instead, it abounds with great joy as we celebrate the triumph of the risen Lord. It signifies the completion of Christ’s work of our salvation, his glorious entry into heaven, and his pledge of our own glorification with him. It represents both a conclusion and a commencement: Jesus finished his earthly work while setting into motion the gift of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church.

In Scripture

The Ascension appears in each Synoptic Gospel (those of Matthew, Mark, and Luke) and the Book of Acts. After Jesus’ resurrection, he revealed himself to his disciples for forty days. He ate with them and taught them all about the kingdom of God. While eating with them one day, he instructed them to stay in Jerusalem and wait for the gift his Father had promised. He then told them that they would be baptized by fire and the Holy Spirit, that they would receive power, and be his witnesses throughout the world.

On the fortieth day, Jesus brought them to the summit of the Mount of Olives. He lifted his hands and blessed them. As he was blessing them, he ascended into the clouds. While the disciples looked up into the sky, two men dressed in white stood beside them and asked why they were looking into the sky. They explained that Jesus would return in the same way that he went into heaven as prophesied in Zechariah 14:4. The disciples immediately began worshiping the Lord. 

Filled with great joy, the disciples returned to Jerusalem to the upper room where they were staying. The women, Mary the mother of Jesus, and Jesus’ brothers, continued with one accord in prayer and supplication. They remained there for nine days, praying and praising God, until the Holy Spirit fell on the day of Pentecost.


The Ascension holds profound meaning for Christians. These few verses feature so much happening and so much deep theological significance!

  • The Ascension marks the end of Jesus’ physical presence on earth and the completion of his earthly ministry. It serves as the culmination and fulfillment of his redemptive work. As he ascended to the Father in glory, it confirms to us all that he completed his mission of salvation. 

  • Through the Ascension, Jesus is exalted and glorified as he is seated at the Father’s right hand. This event is seen as Jesus’ enthronement, emphasizing his divine nature, kingship, and ongoing reign over heaven and earth.

  • With his Ascension, Jesus takes his place at the Father’s right hand, where he intercedes on behalf of humanity. This role is crucial as it shows us that he continues to be actively involved in our lives, mediating between us and God.

  • The Ascension sets the stage for the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Jesus had promised his disciples that he would send the Holy Spirit to guide, empower, and comfort them. His Ascension is necessary for the Church to receive this gift, making it a foundational moment.

  • Jesus’ Ascension in his resurrected body carries a profound implication for humanity: it points to a future where we will join him in heaven, highlighting the hope of resurrection and Ascension for everyone united with Christ. 

  • With Jesus’ departure, the responsibility to continue his work on earth shifts to his disciples and, by extension, to us (the Church). This moment signals the transition from Jesus’ direct ministry to the era of the Church, driven by the Holy Spirit’spower.

  • The Ascension not only recalls Jesus’ departure but also anticipates his promised return. This eschatological (relating to the end of the world) aspect encourages us to look forward to the Second Coming of Christ, which will consummate God’s kingdom.

The Feast of the Ascension

Since Jesus appeared to the disciples and was with them for 40 days before ascending to heaven, we celebrate Ascension Day  40 days after Easter. There are nine days between the day that Jesus ascended (The Ascension) and the day that the Holy Spirit fell on the disciples (Pentecost). The Church calls these nine days a novena. Ascensiontide became the first such novena ever celebrated. 

The Anglican Church allows the traditional celebration of Ascension on Thursday to be moved to Sunday. A general trend has developed to move High Holy Days from weekdays to Sundays to encourage more Christians to observe theologically important feasts.

According to the travel diary of Egeria, a Spanish nun who journeyed to the Holy Land, the Feast of the Ascension was a well-established feast by the 4th century. Those in Jerusalem celebrated it with a procession of the faithful to the top of the Mount of Olives, where, as she describes,

lessons are read there with hymns interspersed, antiphons too are said suitable to the day and the place. Also the prayers which are interspersed have similar references likewise. The passage from the Gospel is also read where it speaks of the Lord’s Ascension, also that from the Acts of the Apostles which tells of the Ascension of the Lord into heaven after His Resurrection. (The Pilgrimage of Egeria)

Celebrations Around the World

Christians around the world celebrate Ascension Day as a major feast day. In many countries, processions occur in imitation of Christ’s journey with the disciples to the Mount of Olives. The faithful walk with prayer and song through fields and pastures, and the priest blesses the boundaries of the properties. In England, they call this the “beating of the bounds” because they beat the boundaries of the property with bundles of sticks and pray over them.

In Portugal, it is known as Dia da Espiga (the day of the ear of a cereal plant, usually wheat). They gather wheat stalks, an olive branch, rosemary, and poppies and place them in their homes. Then, they hang this bundle upside down, behind the entrance or kitchen door or somewhere inside the house, until the Dia da Espiga of the following year, when it is replaced by a new one. They believe that the ears picked on this day provide happiness and abundance to the home. 

Some churches lift a crucifix or statue of the Risen Lord on wires through a hole in the ceiling known as the Holy Spirit hole. Then, gifts of cookies, fruit, flowers, and green branches rain down from the hole into the church. 

Since Ascension Day marks Jesus’ return to his Father, Germany commemorates Father’s Day at the same time. Traditionally, men were placed in a cart or carriage and brought to the village square. There, the father who had fathered the most children received a prize from the mayor.

In Venice, twice a year, once on the Feast of the Epiphany and once on the Feast of the Ascension, “a Festa della Sensa” occurs in the clock tower in the Piazza San Marco. Underneath the clock is a niche with a figure of Mary holding baby Jesus. Doors on either side of Mary and Jesus open up, and the three Magi, led by an angel, appear. The angel and the three Magi make their way around Mary and Jesus. The angel lifts his trumpet to his lips, and the Magi bow down and remove their crowns. Crowds gather from all over the world to see this special event.

Ways to Celebrate

  • Read Acts 1:1-11.

  • Eat fowl. It is traditional on this day to eat fowl since fowl fly up into heaven. This usually includes birds like doves, ducks, or pheasants. Since that might be hard to come by, make something with chicken or turkey. 

  • Make cookies with a bird-shaped cookie cutter. In western Germany, bakers sold pastries in bird shapes. 

  • Hike a mountain or hill. Just as Jesus led his disciples up a mountain before he ascended, people enjoy hiking to the highest place in their area and having a picnic or flying kites. If you don’t live by a hill or mountain, go to a field or beach.

  • Catch crickets. No one knows why anymore but in some parts of Italy, they catch crickets and exchange them with friends. Families throw a picnic while the children look for crickets, which tradition says bring blessings. 

  • Make Divinity to symbolize the clouds in the sky. 



  • 2 ½ cups sugar

  • ½ cup water

  • ½ cup light corn syrup

  • ¼ teaspoon salt

  • 2 egg whites

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1 cup chopped pecans, toasted


Cook the first four ingredients in a heavy 2-quart saucepan over low heat until the sugar dissolves and a candy thermometer registers 248 degrees(about 15 minutes). Remove the syrup mixture from the heat.

Beat egg whites at high speed with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Pour half of the hot syrup in a thin stream over egg whites, constantly beating at high speed, for about five minutes.

Cook the remaining half of the syrup over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until a candy thermometer registers 272 degrees(about four to five minutes). Slowly pour the hot syrup and vanilla extract over the egg white mixture, beating constantly at high speed until the mixture holds its shape (about six to eight minutes). Stir in one cup of chopped pecans.

Drop mixture quickly by rounded teaspoonfuls onto lightly greased wax paper. Allow to cool.

0 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page