Et ascéndit in cælum
The Solemnity of the Ascension of Jesus occurs on the 40th day after Easter, which is May the 17th. Some catholic churches have moved the celebration of this solemnity to the following sunday which is the 20th. The Ascension comes from the book of Acts and is also mentioned in the gospel of Mark and Luke, and tells of events after the resurrection of Jesus where he spent time with the apostles and disciples and then on the 40th day was taken up bodily into heaven in their presence.
Concepts of “ascension” are found in other stories from tradition and scripture. The bible tells of the prophet Elijah being taken up by a fiery chariot. In Jewish tradition, Moses was also taken up in a cloud, though in the bible it states that Moses died. There is also the concept of assumption which is similar and applies to Moses (some suggest he died first and his body was taken then), Enoch, which is a mystery, and the Virgin Mary who has a feast day for the assumption. Like ascension, the body is taken to heaven.
In the illuminated art above, Jesus is pictured ascending with angels surrounding him. In the center is the Virgin Mary with arms raised, to the right St. Peter, holding a staff and the other apostles gazing in wonder.
The Ascension is also found the creeds, both the Apostles and Nicene. Et ascéndit in cælum is the phrase from the Latin Nicene and means “and ascended into heaven”. The creeds were important symbols to early christians and developed in response to disputes and heresies in the early Christian church. The point about ascension, specifically a bodily ascension is important in regard to several philosophies and heresies which considered the body, or the physical creation to be evil. Christ not only comes in the flesh, but is resurrected and ascends in the flesh… And will come back in the same way.