Then he led them out as far as Bethany and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them, and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God. Luke 24:50-53The Lord ascends with both halo and mandala shining around Him, arms raised and gaze intent on Heaven. Does this picture look familiar?
The bodies are in virtually the same position. It makes me think of this passage from Colossians 1, "But now it has been manifested to his holy ones, to whom God chose to make known the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; it is Christ in you, the hope for glory."
From heaven, the angels and Old Testament saints look on with hands raised, following Jesus to Heaven.
The saints are in the top row. I'm don't know who they all are, but I'm pretty sure that the young man closest to Jesus on the left must be John the Baptist (a New Testament saint, really, but one who bridges the Old and New Covenants), and I would guess the man opposite him is Abraham. Perhaps Adam and Eve are at the far left of the upper row. These figures are poorly executed with their tiny arms and big heads. They look a bit like bobble-head dolls. They contrast greatly with the fine craftsmanship of Jesus and Hope. Some of the painting in the chapel was done by assistants, and I suspect that this is an example of their work.
At the bottom, we see Mary and the Eleven watching Our Lord for the last time in this life. How many different emotions they must have been experiencing! I think that might be John behind Mary, and Peter directly across from her--both for obvious reasons. For a few minutes, I wondered what those strange shapes are that we see over some of the apostles heads.
Then I realized that they are holding their hands over their heads to shield their eyes from the Lord's glory.
And finally, we have the "two men in white garments," who say:
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. Acts 1:11
I don't have much to say about them except that they are the only figures in the fresco who are looking down and not up, and, regrettably, the one on the right puts me forcibly in mind of the dreadful blue/white/gold/black dress dilemma. (I'll probably remove that last part when I save this for posterity.