The Ascension, a religious holiday explained in 8 points

A priest carries the processional cross during the Stations of the Cross ceremony at the Saint Germain l'Auxerrois church in Paris on May 15.
A priest carries the processional cross during the Stations of the Cross ceremony at the Saint Germain l'Auxerrois church in Paris on May 15. THIBAULT CAMUS / AP

Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, Ascension and Pentecost are the five cardinal feasts of the Catholic liturgical year. The Ascension is considered one of the foundations of Christianity. She promises eternal life to all the faithful "Alongside the Lord".

  • What is Ascension?

In the Christian tradition, the Ascension – from Latin ascensio, action of going up – celebrates the rise of Jesus towards God, his " Dad ". According to the Bible, forty days after Easter, the dead and risen Jesus would have risen and disappeared in a cloud before the eyes of the Apostles. Ten days later, at Pentecost, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the disciples will take place.

Jesus then charged his disciples with an evangelistic mission, assigning them the power to perform miracles in his name. But its rise was not a surprise. Indeed, during the Last Supper – recounted in the Gospel of John -, Jesus would have already predicted it, repeating: “I am going to my Father. "

  • Why does Jesus rise to heaven?

After his death on the cross, the risen Jesus would have risen to heaven to enter the divine realm, leaving men free to believe, without constraining them by his human presence. This divine dimension, accepted by his disciples, will make them missionaries who must proclaim the Good News – the literal meaning of the word "gospel". This evangelization marks the beginning of the Christian Church.

The elevation to heaven also reveals a message, and not least for believers: their eternal life. The Ascension of Jesus is embodied in the lives of Christians through the sacraments, and more particularly that of the Eucharist. The host and the wine – supposed to be the body and blood of Christ – now constitute his only physical presence on earth.

Gospel of Mark (16, 15-20):

"The risen Jesus said to the eleven apostles: Go around the world. Proclaim the Good News to all of creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever refuses to believe will be condemned.

Here are the signs that will accompany those who will become believers: in my name, they will drive out evil spirits; they will speak a new language; they will take snakes in their hands, and if they drink a deadly poison, it will not harm them; they will lay hands on the sick, and the sick will find good.

The Lord Jesus, after speaking to them, was taken up to heaven and sat on the right hand of God. As for them, they went everywhere to proclaim the Good News. The Lord worked with them and confirmed the Word by the signs that accompanied it. "

– The beginning of the book of Acts of the Apostles (1, 1-11) and theGospel of Luke (24, 51) also evoke this episode.

  • When does Jesus' ascension take place?

The ascension of Jesus occurs forty days after Easter. This number appears regularly in the Bible: the rain falls forty days during the flood of Noah, Moses spends forty days on Mount Sinai before receiving the Tables of the Law, the episode of the temptation of Christ in the desert lasts forty days . Lent also takes place over the same period.

This period symbolizes for Jesus and Christians a time of learning, waiting and introspection.

  • Where does this elevation take place?

According to the Gospel of Luke, the Ascension took place in Bethany, a village dear to Jesus, where the resurrection of Lazarus took place. Another tradition places it on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. The Church of the Ascension in Jerusalem is home to what would be the last footprint of Jesus on earth before it ascended to heaven.

This hill east of Jerusalem remains a high place of pilgrimage for the three monotheistic religions. In Judaism, the Mount of Olives will be the first place to be trodden by the Messiah upon his entry into Jerusalem. Mosques rub shoulders with Jewish and Christian places of worship.

  • When did we celebrate the Ascension?

The Ascension is celebrated on Thursday since the IVe century, on the initiative of Pope Leo Ier great. According to traditions, it is celebrated forty days or fifty days after Easter – that is, at the same time as Pentecost. It is a moving celebration, so it can be different depending on the Catholic and Orthodox liturgical calendars.

Today, this Thursday is a holiday in many countries, such as France, the Netherlands, and even Indonesia.

During mass, the priest is dressed in white, a symbol of purity, light and joy. Many traditions flow from it. In Moldova, for example, young Orthodox Christians plant flowers on the eve of Ascension Thursday so that they rise to the heavens, like Christ.

  • What is the connection between Easter, Ascension and Pentecost?

Situated between the resurrection of Christ and the descent of the Holy Spirit, the Ascension is, according to the Bible, a major event in Christianity. It is important to consider these celebrations jointly.

  • Do not confuse Ascension and Assumption

The Ascension and the Assumption are two separate events. The second celebrates death, resurrection, entry into paradise and the coronation of the Virgin Mary. The Assumption is celebrated on August 15.