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Russian Patriarch Kirill leads Ascension liturgy in St. Petersburg


MOSCOW, May 28 (RIA Novosti, Ivan Korzun) - Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Russia led a Divine Liturgy in the Alexander Nevsky Monastery in St. Petersburg on Thursday, marking the Russian Orthodox Church's celebration of the Ascension.

The Ascension of Jesus Christ to heaven is one of the main feasts in the Christian liturgical year, marked on Thursday in the sixth week following Easter Sunday.

Forty days after his Resurrection, Christ told the Apostles: "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth."

"And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight," says the New Testament's Book of Acts (1:8-9).

This year Russia celebrated Easter, Christianity's most important feast, on April 19, a week later than Roman Catholics and Protestants due to differences in the calendars used by Eastern and Western Christianity.

Russia marks Ascension also a week later, with Western Christians having celebrated it on May 21.

The Resurrection of the Savior, commemorated on Easter, symbolizes the victory over sin and death and the birth of a new world redeemed by his Passion. After midnight and in the next 40 days after Easter Sunday believers greeted each other with "Christ is risen!" and the reply "He is risen indeed!" followed by three kisses.

The ascension is regarded as the formal completion of Christ's mission in this world, and glorious return to the Father who sent him.

"Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: as thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him," Jesus said. (John, 17:1-2)

"And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do." (John, 17:3-4).

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