This Thursday is Ascension Day, the festival commemorating Jesus’ return or “ascension” to heaven, and his enthronement there. Acts 1.1-11 gives us the most detailed account of Jesus’ ascension, but it is mentioned in many other places in the New Testament also, often very briefly, such as in today’s reading from the Letters (1 Peter 3.21b-22).
According to the account in Acts, the ascension took place 40 days after Jesus’ resurrection. For this reason, the 40th day of the Easter Season is designated “Ascension Day”. It always falls on the Thursday following the 6th Sunday of Easter. Since it falls during the week, it can be celebrated on either the Sunday before or after.
The ascension reminds us that the story of Jesus is not over — that he still is alive today, and that he will come back from heaven at the time of God’s choosing. The ascension also reminds us that Jesus is physically absent from the world for the time being; and that in his absence, the Holy Spirit has come to his followers to take his place. According to the book of Acts, the coming of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus’ disciples took place at Pentecost, 10 days after Jesus’ ascension.
The symbolic color for Ascension Day is white, signifying joy and celebration.