Wednesday, May 13, 2015

On the 40th Day of Easter

In the Philippines and in some other countries, the celebration of the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord will be transferred to Sunday and it will take the place of the 7th Sunday of Easter. The reason for this is that the Ascension Feast is not a Holy Day of Obligation here and so the Feast is transferred to Sunday when people are obliged to assist at Mass.

I have no objection to celebrating an External Solemnity of the Ascension on Sunday so that more people can participate in it. However, I have issue with not celebrating this Feast on the ACTUAL 40TH DAY OF EASTER. In most parishes today, there is not even a hint that om this day, Christ ascended into heaven. It is as if nothing happened today. Why is that an issue for me?

First of all, the Acts of the Apostles is written: "After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. " (Acts 1:3) The Scriptures testify to the fact that the Ascension happened on the 40th day of the Resurrection. When we do not celebrate the Ascension today (the 40th day) because we will celebrate it on Sunday, then we are giving out the message that Christ our Lord ascended to heaven on the 43rd day of Easter.

Before the Vatican II liturgical reform, the celebration of the external solemnities on Sundays was already practiced. Its purpose was to enable more people to celebrate the mystery in as much as Sunday was an obligatory day for Mass. However, even if there was an external solemnity, still, the Feast of the Ascension was celebrated on Ascension Thursday, which is the actual 40th day. Perhaps, fewer people are able to assist at Mass but at least there was no liturgical denial that the Lord ascended to heaven on the 40th day.

In fact, in the new English Translation of the Roman Missal, the collect for the Vigil Mass of the Ascension reads: "O God, whose Son TODAY ascended to the heavens as the apostles looked on, grant, we pray, that in accordance with his promise, we may be worthy for him to live with us always on earth..." If the Vigil Mass were celebrated on Saturday evening (which would be the eve of the 43rd day), would he really be honest in the prayer if he said "Your Son TODAY ascended to the heavens..."? Of course, the liturgists would appeal to the argument that the prayer refers to the Liturgical Hodie (today) but these are distinctions in theology which the ordinary faithful are not familiar with. The same is said by the Preface of the Ascension: "The Lord Jesus,,,ascended TODAY to the highest heavens..." The same is said by the Solemn Blessing of the Feast: "May the almighty God bless you for ON THIS VERY DAY his only begotten Son pierced the heights of heaven."

I repeat that I do not have any objection to the celebration of an external feast on Sunday for the sake of the people who cannot go to Mass on Ascension Thursday. But let us not liturgically deny on the actual 40th day that Christ ascended to heaven. To my opinion, we have to keep the Feast on the actual 40th day itself.

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