The Feast of Holy Ascension marks the ascent of our Lord Jesus Christ into heaven on the 40th day following His glorious Resurrection. The timing is clearly specified in the Acts of the Apostles, where it is stated that Christ presented himself alive to the Apostles, “appearing to them during forty days and speaking of the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).
On the 40th day, after he finished speaking to the Apostles, “as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.” (Acts 1:9). The Gospel according to Mark sums up the same story as follows: “So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God” (Mark 16: 19). The same account is also in the Gospel according to Luke: “While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven” (Luke 24:51). There are also several references to this event in some of the other books of the New Testament.
The Feast of the Ascension is an important Dominical feast (one relating to the life of Jesus Christ) that has been celebrated in the universal church since ancient times. Modern scholarship traces its earliest observance to the 4th century.
It is always celebrated on the 40th day after Easter and falls on a Thursday; however, in the Armenian Church, the observance of the feast begins on Wednesday evening during vespers.
From ancient tradition, we know that the Ascension of the Lord took place on the Mount of Olives. To this day the Armenian Brotherhood of St. James in Jerusalem holds vesper service and a vigil on the eve of the Feast of the Ascension at the sanctuary on the Mount of Olives.
Besides being a Dominical feast (see below), the Ascension also marks the anniversary of the reestablishment of the Holy See at the monastery of Holy Etchmiadzin in 1441, after a separation of almost 1,000 years.
As with other feasts, Ascension and the Resurrection of the Lord are celebrated over the following nine days until Pentecost.
Dominical Feasts are connected to Christ’s mission of redemption as well as feasts dedicated to the Holy Mother of God, the Holy Cross and Holy Church.