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Ascension Day is the fortieth day of Easter, always on a Thursday.
In churches that do not have a service on Ascension Day, the ascension is sometimes celebrated on the Sunday after the Ascension, which is the Seventh Sunday of Easter, the last Sunday before Pentecost.
If you have a mid-week prayer meeting, Bible study, or small group meeting (e.g., on a Wednesday), consider moving it to Thursday and having a special service to celebrate the ascension.
Color and Decorations
White, the color of the Easter season (also called Eastertide), is also used on Ascension Day.
White tablecloth and overlay:
Collects* from the BCP for Ascension Day:
Almighty God, whose blessed Son our Savior Jesus Christ ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things: Mercifully give us faith to perceive that, according to his promise, he abides with his Church on earth, even to the end of the ages; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
Grant, we pray, Almighty God, that as we believe your only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended into heaven, so we may also in heart and mind there ascend, and with him continually dwell; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Collect from the BCP for the Sunday After the Ascension:
O God, the King of glory, you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven: Do not leave us comfortless, but send us your Holy Spirit to strengthen us, and exalt us to that place where our Savior Christ has gone before; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
*A collect is a prayer that collects the scattered thoughts of God’s people and directs them towards the same end: God and his works.
Readings from the Revised Common Lectionary (same for Year A, B, and C):
- First reading: Acts 1:1-11
- Psalm: Psalm 47 or Psalm 93
- Second reading: Ephesians 1:15-23
- Gospel: Luke 24:44-53
Proofs from the WCF: Mark 16:19; Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25; 9:24; Mt. 13:40–42; Acts 1:11; 10:42; Rom. 14:9–10; 2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 1:6.
Proofs from the Heidelberg Catechism: Luke 24:50-51; Acts 1:9-11; Rom. 8:34; Eph. 4:8-10; Heb. 7:23-25; 9:24; Acts 1:11; Matt. 28:20; Acts 1:9-11; 3:19-21; Matt. 28:18-20; John 14:16-19; Jer. 23:23-24; Acts 7:48-49 (Isa. 66:1); John 1:14; 3:13; Col. 2:9; Rom. 8:34; 1 John 2:1; John 14:2; 17:24; Eph. 2:4-6; John 14:16; 2 Cor. 1:21-22; 5:5; Col. 3:1-4.
Creeds and Confessions
Apostles’ Creed: “He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty: From there he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.”
Nicene Creed: “He ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.”
39 Articles of Religion, IV: “Christ did truly rise again from death, and took again his body, with flesh, bones, and all things appertaining to the perfection of Man’s nature; wherewith he ascended into Heaven, and there sitteth, until he return to judge all Men at the last day.”
25 Articles of Religion, III: “Christ did truly rise again from the dead, and took again his body, with all things appertaining to the perfection of man’s nature, wherewith he ascended into heaven, and there sitteth until he return to judge all men at the last day.”
Augsburg Confession, III: “afterward He ascended into heaven that He might sit on the right hand of the Father, and forever reign and have dominion over all creatures, and sanctify them that believe in Him, by sending the Holy Ghost into their hearts, to rule, comfort, and quicken them, and to defend them against the devil and the power of sin. The same Christ shall openly come again to judge the quick and the dead, etc., according to the Apostles’ Creed.”
Westminster Confession of Faith, 8.4: “On the third day he arose from the dead, with the same body in which he suffered; with which also he ascended into heaven, and there sitteth at the right hand of his Father, making intercession; and shall return to judge men and angels at the end of the world.”
Heidelberg Catechism: see questions 46–52.
46. What do you mean by saying, “He ascended to heaven”?
That Christ, while his disciples watched, was taken up from the earth into heaven and remains there on our behalf until he comes again to judge the living and the dead.
47. But isn’t Christ with us until the end of the world as he promised us?
Christ is true human and true God. In his human nature Christ is not now on earth; but in his divinity, majesty, grace, and Spirit he is never absent from us.
48. If his humanity is not present wherever his divinity is, then aren’t the two natures of Christ separated from each other?
Certainly not. Since divinity is not limited and is present everywhere, it is evident that Christ’s divinity is surely beyond the bounds of the humanity that has been taken on, but at the same time his divinity is in and remains personally united to his humanity.
49. How does Christ’s ascension to heaven benefit us?
First, he is our advocate in heaven in the presence of his Father. Second, we have our own flesh in heaven as a sure pledge that Christ our head will also take us, his members, up to himself. Third, he sends his Spirit to us on earth as a corresponding pledge. By the Spirit’s power we seek not earthly things but the things above, where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand.
See also questions 50–52.
- The Visual Commentary on Scripture, “Exhibition: The Ascension.”
- William Burt Pope, Compendium of Christian Theology, 2nd edition, “The Ascension and Session.”
- Thomas Summers, Systematic Theology, 3.1.3, “The Ascension and Session of Christ.”
- Patrick Schreiner, The Ascension of Christ: Recovering a Neglected Doctrine (Lexham Press, 2020). 120 pages.
- Peter C. Orr, Exalted Above the Heavens: The Risen and Ascended Christ (IVP Academic, 2019). 252 pages.