Ascension Thursday: Never on Sunday!

It’s Ascension Thursday. Or at least it is if you live in the US ecclesiastical provinces of Boston, Hartford, New York, Newark, Philadelphia, or the state of Nebraska. For the rest of us, by vote of our bishops, Ascension Thursday doesn’t arrive until Sunday.

That fries me. The Feast of the Ascension is one of my favorite holy days, one which I am obliged to keep by nothing more than happiness. So I was mightily disappointed, upon my reversion, to find that my bishops think they’re making things easier for me by transferring the liturgical celebration to the following Sunday. Or Saturday evening, even.

To which I say, Dudes! . . . I mean, Your Excellencies! Does the weighty significance of the number 40, as in “40 days after Easter,” elude you? What are we, the federal government, ignoring actual commemorative anniversaries in favor of three-day weekends? It is bad enough that we’re now allowed to squeeze beef gravy, chicken broth, and bacon dressing in under the wire of Friday abstinence, but reducing the holy days of obligation to a paltry three a year (in Ohio, anyway)? You’ve gone soft. Next thing you know, we’ll be celebrating Christmas the day after Black Friday. Slackers, as my friend The Hermit (whose hermitage is in Maine, in the ecclesiastical province of Boston, where they still know how to count) says.

My level of liturgical dudgeon (and envy of the Real Ascension Thursday celebrators) is high enough that I can’t  summon any lofty theological reflections on this beloved feast. For those, I send you to

  • Robert Imbelli quoting Hans Urs von Balthasar at dot.commonweal
  • Deacon Greg Kandra’s homily
  • Fr Jim Martin’s Facebook reflection illustrated by Salvador Dali’s Ascension

I’ll just say again how disappointed I am by the fact that I can’t celebrate Ascension Thursday without crossing several state lines. And that I couldn’t incorporate into an Ascension Thursday reflection footage from this morning’s TODAY Show battle between two brothers vying for one spot on the US Olympic trampoline team. I will leave leave you instead with a couple of examples of my favorite genre of Ascension depictions, popular particularly in the English illuminated manuscript tradition. They show only the feet of the Risen Lord as the rest of him vanishes into that other dimension that is the Kingdom, which–like Ascension Thursday in much of these United States–is both here and yet to come.

  • http://www.sacredmiscellany.com mjballou

    I'm in total agreement on this. Every year,I'm aggravated by the moving of Ascension, fiddling around with Epiphany. We don't need to make things easier. We need to make them more important. And remember, people went to these Masses when they worked from sunrise to sundown.

  • Anonymous

    Agreed.But for a midweek holy day to really work, we need to recover the medieval practice of making a festival of it, not the gritty Catholic ghettoes of a hundred years ago.Parishes and dioceses were unprepared for adapting holy days for maximum benefit. Until parishes are prepared to move their big dinners and carnivals off the Friday of Lent, or the fourth Sunday in September, holy days will languish wherever they are celebrated.Todd

  • Bro. AJK

    One of my friends found herself one year in OH on the Thursday and PA on the Sunday. In other words, no Ascension for her. By the way, I like that first picture.


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