The Ascension

The four Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles tell how Christ was taken up into heaven on the fortieth day after the Resurrection: “Until the day in which He was taken up, after that He through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the Apostles whom He had chosen: to whom also He shewed himself alive after His passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the Kingdom of God: and, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith He, ye have heard of Me … But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. And when He had spoken these things, while they beheld, He was taken up; and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; who also said, ‘Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven’” (Acts 1:2–4, 8–11).

In one of the iconographic versions of the Ascension, the Mother of God is not depicted en face, but turned towards the centre. Her hands are raised in prayer and her eyes are glued to her ascending Son. This iconographic feature dates back to the texts of the festival service, which are the only source to mention the presence of Mary at the Ascension of Christ. Such a compositional scheme was popular in Byzantine church murals and formed an original artistic accompaniment to the liturgy. Another unique feature was the inclusion of the supplementary scene of the Blessing of the Disciples, which the Gospels describe as taking place directly before Christ’s ascension into heaven (Luke 24:50).

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