After Jesus’ resurrection, the time came for him to return to heaven to prepare a place for us, as His earthly ministry had been fulfilled. The Ascension serves as an ultimate demonstration of Jesus’ power over death, inaugurating His reign over heaven and earth as the living King. Discover more about this Glorious Mystery and explore the chapel where it is portrayed in our latest virtual tour.
Understanding the Ascension
As Pope John Paul II once explained, when Jesus ascended into heaven, two significant events in particular happened: Jesus gave His followers instructions on how they were to live, and He left them with a promise. He directed the disciples to spread the message of the Gospel to the ends of the earth, declaring the good news of salvation.
Acts 1:6-11 describes the Ascension and Jesus’ final words to His disciples before He returned to His Father:
“When they had gathered together they asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He answered them, ‘It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’
When He had said this, as they were looking on, He was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight. While they were looking intently at the sky as He was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.’”
Jesus did not leave them alone in this Great Commission; He sent a helper to strengthen and intercede for all His followers: the Holy Spirit. It was, and is, the Holy Spirit who guides the Church and fills Jesus’ followers with His power, enabling them to share the Gospel until the day Jesus returns.
The Ascension Chapel at Basilica
In the Great Upper Church, Jesus’ ascension into heaven is portrayed in mosaic tile in the Ascension Chapel. The panel depicts Jesus rising to take His heavenly seat at the right hand of the Father, His work on earth completed. Below this scene is a depiction of the Old Testament parallel of Elijah riding to heaven in a flaming chariot after imparting the spirit of prophecy to His disciples (2 Kings 2:1-15). Joining the two scenes is the verse from the Gospel of John: “I ascend to my Father and your Father,” (20:17).
You can explore the Ascension Chapel in stunning 360° below!
Join us in celebrating the Solemnity of the Assumption at the Basilica this week, whether in-person or virtually from nationalshrine.org/mass. See event page for more details.