Quick! If you had to prove that Jesus had physically stood on the ground moments after the Ascension took place, how would you do it?
After all, the story of the Ascension is incredible. Too incredible, in fact. Just take a look at the bible passage, which relates to the Ascension:
Acts of the Apostles 1
4While meeting with them, he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for “the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak; 5for John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the holy Spirit.”6When they had gathered together they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He answered them, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority. 8 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.” 9When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight. 10While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. 11They 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.”
If someone told you that this actually happened, would you believe it?
Maybe the disciples of Jesus who witnesses the Ascension were a little bit too excitable at that moment and they didn’t remember the events accurately.
Or maybe you would assume that, if the Ascension actually took place, it did so in a symbolic way and that Christ didn’t actually rise up in the sky. After all, that sounds a little bit too far-fetched.
So! How would you prove that the Ascension physically took place moments after the Ascension happen?
I don’t know about you, but I would look for footprints.
And this is why I love so many of the Ascension pictures: many of them feature footprints. For instance, take a look at this one!
In this picture, Jesus has ascended to His throne, where He is King over all. Around Him are several Old Testament patriarchs that passed on before Him — for instance, Moses holds the tablets which contains the Ten Commandments while King David holds his harp. Christ still bears the wounds that He received from the Passion, His hands bleeding, even while He gives the sign of blessing.
Below Him, the His eleven disciples and Blessed Mother kneel at the sight. St. John, who received Christ’s mother after death, has his arm around our Blessed Mother, to indicate that he has become her son and thus is taking care of her, as Christ commanded him to do. Opposite to them, St. Peter, in his typically impulsive manner, waves excitably at the sight of Jesus ascending. And all around, the other disciples have surprised looks on their faces as they see this incredible sight.
But! Take a good look at the mound that is in the middle!
There’s a set of footprints!
But not just any set of footprints! The set of footprints indicates that somebody was standing there deep enough for the footprints to set in, but doesn’t show any footprints leading to or from the scene. It is as if Jesus came there and then left inexplicably!
This is not the only artwork that has these sets of footprints in it though! There are many other artworks out there that depict this curious set of footprints from Jesus.
And, in that way, the artist emphasizes that the Ascension was not merely some sort of symbolic event that captured the hearts of the disciples. This truly was a physical ascension into heaven that, though it remains extraordinary and miraculous and very much improbable, actually did physically take place.
Because all things are possible with God.
This blog is part of a blog series about meditations of the Rosary, in honor for October, which is the month dedicated to the Rosary! This artwork, as well as many others, are available in my book, The Glorious Mysteries, which allows you to pray the Rosary prayer by prayer, with each prayer illustrated with gorgeous religious art. If you would like to learn more about the books, click here!