THURSDAY, JUNE 2: Forty days have passed since Easter—and that means millions of Christians worldwide celebrate the Feast of the Ascension of Jesus. Some Christians celebrate on the Sunday before or after this date; some Christians don’t celebrate it at all. But, this is considered one of the great feasts in the ecumenical Christian calendar.
According to Christian tradition, the resurrected Jesus was taken into heaven in the presence of 11 Apostles, precisely 40 days after the resurrection. The most detailed account of this event is found in the Acts of the Apostles, although Gospel descriptions vary somewhat. In Acts, Jesus was near Mount Olivet when He told the disciples that they were to spread His message around the world; when Jesus finished, he was taken by a cloud, after which two angels reported that He would return for a Second Coming in the same manner. (Wikipedia has details.) Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians believe Mary was present at the Ascension, too.
This feast, among the Twelve Great Feasts of the Church, dates back to the 4th century. (Get the Orthodox view at the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.)
Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online journal covering religion and cultural diversity.