“He ascended into heaven…”

Visualizing the Ascension of Jesus.

While Jesus was going and [the apostles] were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” Acts 1:10-11 NRSV

Master of the Rabbula Gospels, The Ascension, 586

The Ascension of Christ, illumination on parchment, 6th century,
Master of the Rabbula Gospels.

Commentary by Hovak Najarian

During the sixth century, artists were approximately eight hundred years away from being able to create pictorial depth through linear perspective. In addition to technical limitations, artists faced decisions about how Jesus would be depicted and how angels would fly. How would a person’s inner light be represented? Creating a composition required decisions as well; how was it to be organized?

Pictorial depth in, The Ascension of Christ, an illuminated Syriac Gospel Book, is limited. The figures are standing at ground level like relief sculpture and the composition is balanced in bilateral symmetry. The right and left side of the painting balance each other equally and Mary with a halo and blue robe is at the center. Her arms are uplifted in prayer. Byzantine royalty often wore blue robes and by the sixth century, the color blue, representing heavenly grace among other symbolic associations, had been adopted as the color by which Mary, “Queen of Heaven,” would be identified. Uplifted arms while in prayer was a gesture used by early Christians and continues today in some Pentecostal and charismatic churches. Except for the angels and Mary, most of the figures are looking upward at Jesus.

As Christ was ascending, two men in white robes appeared. Each is depicted as an angel with wings and a halo. Angels in the Bible were not assigned wings but artists reasoned they would need them in order to fly. The angel on the left of Mary is looking at Paul (identified by a long dark beard and bald forehead) and is pointing upward at the ascending Jesus. Paul was not a follower of Jesus at the time of the ascension but was brought in by way of, “artist’s license.” The angel on the right is talking to the white-bearded Peter. They, and the others, are being told Jesus “…will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

In the sixth century, Christ’s ascension was depicted in various ways; one was not to have his body in the picture at all. Only his feet and the hem of his robe would be shown as he entered clouds above. Sometimes only his feet remained in the picture. In another approach, Jesus would move upward by climbing a mountain.

In his journey heavenward, Jesus is surrounded usually by a glowing light or is encompassed, as here, by a full body halo known as a mandorla. In the above depiction, two angels are holding the mandorla to assist Jesus in his ascent while two other angels are moving upward bearing crowns. Jesus is standing within the mandorla with his hand raised in a final blessing to those who have gathered below. The biblical account of Ezekiel ascending to heaven on a chariot was familiar to people at this time and, as seen here, a depiction of the ascension in early Christian art often included chariot wheels beneath the mandorla.

Hovak Najarian © 2017

Ascension | Art for A Easter 7

Acts 1:6-14 When the apostles had come together, they asked Jesus, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight

Ascension
MOSAIC ARTIST, Italian
(active 1175-1200 in Venice)
Crossing (Ascension) cupola
1175-1200
Mosaic
Basilica di San Marco, Venice
Click image for more information.

The Apostles’ Creed

Listen to the Apostles’ Creed sung by a choir of Tongan youth in the Uniting Church Sydney Australia.

What is the Apostles’ Creed?

The Apostles’ Creed is the ancient creed of Baptism, it is used in the Church’s daily worship to recall our Baptismal Covenant.

An Outline of the Faith: The Book of Common Prayer, p. 852

The Apostles’ Creed

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the Virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

For further reading and reflection

The Symbolum Apostolorum was developed between the second and ninth centuries. It is the most popular creed used in worship by Western Christians. Its central doctrines are those of the Trinity and God the Creator. It has been called the Creed of Creeds.
Legend has it that the Apostles wrote this creed on the tenth day after Christ’s ascension into heaven. That is not the case, though the name stuck. However, each of the doctrines found in the creed can be traced to statements current in the apostolic period. The earliest written version of the creed is perhaps the Interrogatory Creed of Hippolytus (ca. A.D. 215). The current form is first found in the writings of Caesarius of Arles (d 542).
The creed was apparently used as a summary of Christian doctrine for baptismal candidates in the churches of Rome. Hence it is also known as The Roman Symbol. As in Hippolytus’ version it was given in question and answer format with the baptismal candidates answering in the affirmative that they believed each statement.

Source: http://www.creeds.net/ancient/apostles.htm

Note: the link will take you to a page devoted to the Apostles’ Creed including additional links to the text of the creed in Latin and Greek, historical notes and much more

A Pentecost: Art for readings 06/12/2011

GIOTTO di Bondone
Click to open Web Gallery of Art Artist Biography

Scenes from the Life of Christ: Pentecost
1304-06
Fresco, 200 x 185 cm
Click to open Web Gallery of Art display page.
 Click on their image to enlarge/fit page etc.

Cappella Scrovegni (Arena Chapel), Padua
Click to open Web Gallery of Art location/setting information.

A Easter7: Art for readings 06/05/2011

GIOTTO di Bondone
Click to open Web Gallery of Art Artist Biography

Scenes from the Life of Christ: Ascension
1304-06
Fresco, 200 x 185 cm
Click to open Web Gallery of Art display page.
 Click on their image to enlarge/fit page etc.

Cappella Scrovegni (Arena Chapel), Padua
Click to open Web Gallery of Art location/setting information.