Matt. 28:16-20 Jesus appears to the eleven disciples on a hill in Galilee. He instructs them to make people of all nations his disciples, baptising them “in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19). To this day, Christians are baptised in the name of the Holy Trinity – the one God who is revealed to us in three ‘persons’ – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Lk. 24:50-51 Forty days after his bodily resurrection, Jesus leads the disciples out of Jerusalem to the Mount of Olives on the road to Bethany (see Map 14). He blesses them and is taken into God’s presence (‘heaven’) (see Acts 1:6-9). This day – Thursday 18th May 30AD – is commemorated annually by Christians as ‘Ascension Day’.
The ‘Ascension’ of the risen Lord Jesus into God’s presence (‘heaven’) is recorded only by Luke, and in some later versions of Mark’s gospel. The later addition to Mark’s gospel does not give a specific location for the ‘Ascension’, though the implication is that it occurred in Jerusalem. Luke, however, records that the ‘Ascension’ took place on the Mount of Olives, a ‘Sabbath day’s journey’ (two thousand paces) from the city towards Bethany (see Luke 24:50, Acts 1:12 and Map 13).
In 326AD, Empress Helena identified the site of the ‘Ascension’ as being adjacent to a small cave on the upper slopes of the Mount of Olives. The church she built here was destroyed in 614AD, and the Pater Noster Church currently occupying this site was built in the 1860s.
Looking across from the Old City to the Mount of Olives (Luke 24:50)
Towards the end of the 4th century, commemoration of the ‘Ascension’ moved to the summit of the Mount of Olives, where Poimenia built a small circular church whose centre was open to the sky. The Crusaders built an octagonal church on this site, which later became the Mosque of the Ascension.
The Church of the Ascension built in the 1870s, with its square tower crowning the summit of the Mount of Olives, belongs to a Russian Orthodox convent, and its museum houses remains of a 5th century Byzantine mosaic from a funerary chapel.