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Feast of the Lord’s Ascension

Today, May 21, the Armenian Church celebrates the Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The day marks the ascent of our Lord into heaven, on the 40th day after his resurrection.

In the Bible, the opening chapter of the Book of Acts gives the classic account of Christ’s ascension, where Jesus first preaches to the disciples on the Mount of Olives; and then, “as they beheld, he was taken up, and a cloud received him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9).

Luke (who is also the author of Acts) reports in the closing verses of his gospel that “while [Jesus] blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven” (Lk 24:51). St. Paul gives us the earliest reference to Christ’s presence in heaven, in his Epistle to the Romans (Rom 10:5-7).

The Feast of the Ascension (Hampartsoum in Armenian) has been celebrated in the universal church since ancient times. Modern scholarship traces its observance to the 4th century. The Nicene Creed (A.D. 325), chanted in the Armenian Church during every Divine Liturgy, asserts that Christ “ascended into heaven with the same body and sat at the right hand of the Father.”

Today, a sanctuary on the Mount of Olives marks the place where the Ascension of our Lord occurred. For centuries the Brotherhood of St. James at the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem has held a vespers service and vigil in the sanctuary on the eve of the Feast of the Ascension.

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