With the observance of the Ascension of Our Lord, we have come full circle with the life of Christ. He has completed the work for which He came. Now He returns in glory and triumph to the Father. Really, this can be described as a feast of completion.
Gathered with the ascending Christ, upon whom He is bestowing His blessing, are components of His Church. There is the Holy Virgin, in an attitude of prayer and intercession; there are the Apostles and members of the Church; there are the Angels attending to the Lord. They are all depicted in various positions and different gestures, suggesting the diversity of the Church in the ages to come.
The presence of the Angels reminds us of the prophecy concerning the second coming of Christ. "You men of Galilee," they said at the time of ascension, "why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from among you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw Him go into heaven..." In this sense, the icon might be considered as one whose theme is the second coming of the Lord.
The rather sharp distinction between the two portions of the icon, top and bottom, are not to be interpreted to mean that Jesus is gone and has nothing furthermore to do with the Church. On the contrary, "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the consummation of the world," the Lord said. The blessing of the ascending Christ continues to this day. The Figure of the Lord is depicted in such fashion as to indicate His CONTINUOUS Presence.
The Orthodox Weekly Bulletin – Cliffwood, NJ