Catholic Dictionary




Christ's going up to heaven forty days after his resurrection from the dead. All the creeds affirm the fact, and the Church teaches that he ascended into heaven in body and soul (Denzinger 801). He ascended into heaven by his own power, as God in divine power and as man in the power of his transfigured soul, which moves his transfigured body, as it will. In regard to the human nature of Christ, one can also say, with the Scriptures, that it was taken up or elevated into heaven by God (Mark 16:19; Luke 24:51; Acts 1:9, 11).

Rationalism has denied the doctrine since the earliest times, e.g., Celsus in the second century. It tries to explain the Ascension as a borrowing from the Old Testament or from pagan mythology, but in doing so omits the basic differences.

Doctrinally the Ascension means the final elevation of Christ's human nature into the condition of divine glory. It is the concluding work of redemption. According to the Church's common teaching, the souls of the just from the pre-Christian era went with the Savior into the glory of heaven. Christ's Ascension is the archetype and pledge of our own ascension into heaven. (Etym. Latin ascensio, an ascending, ascent.)