This icon of the ascension, the most beautiful in early Christian art, is clearly of Palestinian origin. In the upper corners are the Semitic gods worshiped in Assyria: “Sin” the moon (left) and the sun (right) Helios. These pagan gods of Babylon acknowledge the Son of the Living God. Christ is ascending in a sphere raised by 2 angels and a flying chariot; 2 other angels carry gold crowns on purple cloth. This offering of the crowns refers to Book of Revelation: “Worthy is the Lamb to receive glory, honor and power.”
The Christ figure with long brown hair is a deliberate reference to the Lord of the universe (Pantokrator). He holds an open scroll since: “the Lamb is worthy to break open the seal”. By the position of his right hand he solemnly proclaims the new Law. The winged-chariot is a flame-colored throne and includes a human head, an eagle, a lion, a bull, symbols of the 4 evangelists. The hand alludes to God the Father.
Mary is depicted in the ancient prayer posture and in her womanhood, since she is mother and nourisher. The artist sees the Church identified with and personified in her, since both are gifted with divine wisdom. Here the Mother of the Church and the Church are worshiping Christ who is returning to the Father.
The angels near Mary hold wanderer’s staffs. Their clothing and haloes are similar to those of Christ since all 3 are citizens of heaven.
The apostles are ecstatic as they “star-gaze”, but the angels warn them to go and proclaim this news since Christ will return at the end of the world (Act 1,9). An interesting note here is the presence of St Paul with the book (left of Mary). In fact he was not present at the ascension but was included by the artist. The apostle Peter (right of Mary) holds the keys of the kingdom entrusted to him by Christ.