Coptic Icon Ascension

Christ our Ascension

This Thursday we celebrate the feast of the ascension.

The account of the ascension is mentioned in 3 places:

  1. Gospel of St Mark
  2. Gospel of St Luke
  3. Book of Acts

Why the ascension?

  • To grant us the Holy Spirit

“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” (John 16:7)

  • To prepare a place for us.

“I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself” (John 14:3)

  • To intercede for us before the Father.

For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; (Hebrews 9:24)

This verse is taken from chapter 9 of the epistle to the Hebrews in which St Paul talks to us about the day of atonement foreshadowing the redemption of Christ. On the day of atonement, the High priest would enter the Holy of Holies into the presence of God once a year with the blood of calves and goats to intercede for the people. But Christ entered not the Holy of Holies made with hands but into heaven itself, not with the blood of calves of goats and calves but with his own blood.

Christ ascended in his humanity:

We note that in the last verse it says that that Christ’s ascension is for us. He did not need to ascend.

No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. (John 3:13)

He has no need to ascend to heaven, for he is in heaven. His ascension is the ascension of our humanity to heaven.

­­“and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6)

He is our ascension.

In the rite of the Ascension:

The procession is around the nave of the church with the icon of the resurrection, in remembrance of the appearances of the Lord during the 40 days confirming His resurrection.

From the Feast of Ascension upto the Feast of Pentecost” the procession is only in the sanctuary, because Christ is now in heaven, nnd with both the icon of the Resurrection and the icon of the Ascension, because Christ ascended with the body of the resurrection, not with another body.

He ascended with the Resurrection body which had the nail wounds. Therefore St John saw Christ in heaven as a Lamb as though it had been slain.

“And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain. (Revelations 5:6)

When did Christ Ascend:

It is not mentioned in the gospel at what time he ascended. But we commemorate it at the third hour. Why?  Because it is so closely related to the coming down of the Holy Spirit.

“He ascended to the Highest heaven and sent to us the Holy Spirit”

Psalms of the third hour mentioning the ascension:

“He has gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet” (Psalm 47:5)

“Lift up your heads O you gates, and lift them up you everlasting doors and the king of glory shall come in” (Psalm 24:7)

The Lord has not left us

As we said before the Lord has ascended according to His humanity, so he has not left us.

“Behold I am with you to the end of the age”

That is why we pray in the third hour litanies: “Lord abide with us as you did with the apostles when you gave them your peace.”

Prophecies of the ascension in the OT:

Two people rose in the OT:

Enoch: And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him. (Genesis 5:24)


The ascension of Elijah is mentioned in 2 Kings 2.

Elisha was Elijah’s disciple. Elijah is a type of Christ in his signs and his calling to people to repentance. Elisha is a type of the Church.

Elijah is a type of Christ in his ascension and sending down the Holy Spirit as we will see from the passage in 2 Kings 2.

2 Kings 2

Fifty men from the company of the prophets went and stood at a distance, facing the place where Elijah and Elisha had stopped at the Jordan.

Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided to the right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground.

We are reminded of the crossing of the Red Sea, and salvation from the bitterness of Pharoah. Christ has delivered us from the bittherness of slavery.

When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?”

13 And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. (John 14:13)

“Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied.

It was a Jewish custom that the first born son would receive a double portion. We are all firstborn sons. Therefore we call it the chrich of the firstborn”

10 “You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah said, “yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours—otherwise, it will not.”

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)

11 As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them.

The Chariot of fire is the Holy Spirit which separates (connects) both of us.

Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.

Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. (Acts 1:9)

12 Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” And Elisha saw him no more.

And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, [a]“Abba, Father!” (Galatians 4:6)

Then he took hold of his garment and tore it in two.

put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, (Ephesians 4:22)

13 Elisha then picked up Elijah’s cloak that had fallen from him and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan.

14 He took the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and struck the water with it. “Where now is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” he asked. When he struck the water, it divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed over.

And behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49)

Concluding words:

14 These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren. (Acts 1:14)

Let us spend the next 10 days asking for the Holy Spirit to be renewed within us so that we may serve not in our own strength, but in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Subdeacon Simon Kamel