Synaxarion for the Holy Ascension.
Οn Thursday of the sixth week after Pascha, we celebrate the Holy Ascension of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ.
While the Savior was still together with the Disciples, before the Passion, He promised that the most Holy Spirit would come, saying, “Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you” (John 16:7) and, “However, when He, the Spirit of Truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth...” (John 16:13). That is why, after the Resurrection from the dead, having shown Himself to them during the period of forty days – not constantly, but from time to time – eating and drinking together with them and clearly revealing the Resurrection to them, on the final day, He promised them many things about the Kingdom of God. He commanded that they not leave Jerusalem but remain there and wait for the coming of the most Holy Spirit, for they needed to be baptized in the Spirit, having been baptized before only with John’s baptism of water. Thus, He commanded them to stay in Jerusalem so they would be strengthened by preaching the Gospel first in that very place instead of going to foreign lands immediately where they would more easily be ridiculed. This was also necessary so that they would be trained there, like soldiers, with the weapons of the Spirit, and thus they would go out for battle in preaching the Gospel.
When the time for the Ascension had come, the Savior took His Disciples up on the Mount of Olives (which is called such because there were many olive trees planted there), and He instructed them to preach about Him to the ends of the earth. He then spoke to them about His future Kingdom, which the mind cannot comprehend, and He saw that they wanted to ask Him about all that was to take place. With His Mother also present, angels appeared to show them His Ascension into heaven. As they looked on, a cloud lifted Him from among them and carried Him up. The angels who had been sent to escort Him and who passed one another to lift the gates of heaven surrounded Him, amazed at the red blood of His body. He thus Ascended and sat at the right of the Father, deifying the body, which had been defiled by the ancient deception. He reconciled it to God and made it, if we may dare to say, into the likeness of the Father. But some angels, in the form of men, stood before the Apostles and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).
The Apostles then stopped looking up and went down from the Mount of Olives. This mountain is very close to Jerusalem – about two thousand four hundred paces, or approximately one mile – which is considered a Sabbath day’s walk. Moses had commanded in the Law that this was the maximum amount of paces to make on the Sabbath, and, in the same manner, the Ark of the Covenant in the desert was carried the same number of paces from the Jews’ camp. That is why it was allowed for them to go there on the Sabbath for worship, but any journey that was longer than this was not permitted. This explains why such a distance is called a Sabbath day’s walk. From this point of view, some even believe that the Holy Ascension of Christ took place on a Sabbath (Saturday), but this is unsure.
When the Apostles returned to Jerusalem, they went to the Upper Room where they would meet together with the Myrrhbearing Women and the Mother of the Word. They spent their days in fasting, prayer, and petition, awaiting the coming of the most Holy Spirit, according to the promise.
О Christ our God, who has Ascended in glory,
have mercy on us and save us.
The Synaxarion of the Lenten Triodion and the Pentecostarion, ed. Fr David (Kidd) and Mother Gabriella (Ursache), Rives Junction, MI: HDM, 1999, pp. 216-218.