Today is Ascension Day, an important date in the Christian calendar which commemorates Jesus Christ’s ascent into heaven.
The day is traditionally celebrated on the 40th day after Easter Sunday. It is also known as the Feast of the Ascension of Jesus Christ, Ascension Thursday or Holy Thursday.
So, what’s the meaning behind the day?
What is Ascension Day?
The celebration takes its name from the ascent of Christ, who, according to Christian belief, ascended into heaven on this day.
40 days after the resurrection, Jesus and his disciples went to Mount Olivet (Mount of Olives), near Jerusalem.
The Bible says Jesus promised the disciples that they would soon receive the Holy Spirit, and asked them to remain in Jerusalem until the Spirit had come.
While he was blessing them he left them, and was taken up to heaven.
The holy day is celebrated across all branches of Christianity on the sixth Thursday after Easter, which falls exactly 40 days after Easter Sunday.
Orthodox Christians, however, will celebrate the day a week later than Catholics and Protestants, owing to their Easter falling on a later date.
Eastern Christianity recognises a different date for Easter because they follow the Julian Calendar, as opposed to the Gregorian calendar which is widely used by most countries today.
Great Britain changed to the Gregorian calendar in 1752.
The day is a public holiday in many countries including France, Germany and Indonesia.
Traditional Ascension Day hymns to sing
Here are some hymns you can sing today, courtesy of songandpraise.org
Thou Art gone up on High
Thou art gone up on high, to mansions in the skies;
And round Thy throne unceasingly the songs of praise arise;
But we are lingering here, with sin and care oppressed;
Lord, send Thy promised Comforter, and lead us to Thy rest.
Thou art gone up on high; but Thou didst first come down,
Through earth’s most bitter misery to pass unto Thy crown;
And girt with griefs and fears our onward course must be;
But only let this path of tears lead us at last to Thee.
Thou art gone up on high; but Thou shalt come again,
With all the bright ones of the sky attendant in Thy train.
Lord, by Thy saving power so make us live and die,
That we may stand in that dread hour at Thy right hand on high.
Hail the day that sees Him rise
Hail the day that sees Him rise, Alleluia!
To His throne above the skies, Alleluia!
Christ, awhile to mortals given, Alleluia!
Reascends His native heaven, Alleluia!
There the glorious triumph waits, Alleluia!
Lift your heads, eternal gates, Alleluia!
Christ hath conquered death and sin, Alleluia!
Take the King of glory in, Alleluia!
Circled round with angel powers, Alleluia!
Their triumphant Lord, and ours, Alleluia!
Conqueror over death and sin, Alleluia!
“Take the King of glory in! Alleluia!”
Him though highest Heav’n receives, Alleluia!
Still He loves the earth He leaves, Alleluia!
Though returning to His throne, Alleluia!
Still He calls mankind His own, Alleluia!
See! He lifts His hands above, Alleluia!
See! He shows the prints of love, Alleluia!
Hark! His gracious lips bestow, Alleluia!
Blessings on His church below, Alleluia!
Still for us His death He pleads, Alleluia!
Prevalent He intercedes, Alleluia!
Near Himself prepares our place, Alleluia!
Harbinger of human race, Alleluia!
Master, (will we ever say), Alleluia!
Taken from our head to day, Alleluia!
See Thy faithful servants, see, Alleluia!
Ever gazing up to Thee, Alleluia!
Grant, though parted from our sight, Alleluia!
Far above yon azure height, Alleluia!
Grant our hearts may thither rise, Alleluia!
Seeking Thee beyond the skies, Alleluia!
Ever upward let us move, Alleluia!
Wafted on the wings of love, Alleluia!
Looking when our Lord shall come, Alleluia!
Longing, gasping after home, Alleluia!
There we shall with Thee remain, Alleluia!
Partners of Thy endless reign, Alleluia!
There Thy face unclouded see, Alleluia!
Find our heaven of heavens in Thee, Alleluia!
O Christ, who hast prepared a place
O Christ, Who hast prepared a place
For us around Thy throne of grace,
We pray Thee, lift our hearts above,
And draw them with the cords of love.
Source of all good, Thou, gracious Lord,
Art our exceeding great reward;
How transient is our present pain,
How boundless our eternal gain!
With open face and joyful heart,
We then shall see Thee as Thou art:
Our love shall never cease to glow,
Our praise shall never cease to flow.
Thy never-failing grace to prove,
A surety of Thine endless love,
Send down Thy Holy Ghost, to be
The raiser of our souls to Thee.
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