Life & Soul Life and Soul

The absurdity of ‘Ascension Thursday Sunday’

On this complicated Sunday people in many churches will observe in the Ordinary Form what we might call, for its absurdity, Ascension Thursday Sunday, the transferral of the biblically attested moment, 40 days after the Resurrection, of the Lord’s transit to heaven on a Thursday, with our humanity in an indestructible bond with His divinity. Nine days, not six, intervened between the Lord’s physical ascent and the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

On the other hand, liturgically it should be the Seventh Sunday of Easter. On the other, other hand, in the Extraordinary Form Holy Church celebrates in her venerable, traditional calendar – logically and quite properly – the Sunday after the Ascension, because, well, that’s what it is. Transferring the feast to Sunday is a Bad Idea, because it weakens, rather than underscores, its importance and hence our Catholic identity.

For Ascension in the Ordinary Form, Father can choose between two Collects: the first cobbled together for the Novus Ordo with material from St Leo the Great; and the other from the post-Tridentine Roman Missal and its antecedents. We’ve seen the first here before, so let’s have a look at the second:

Concede, quaesumus, omnipotens Deus: ut, qui hodierna die Unigenitum tuum, Redemptorem nostrum, ad caelos ascendisse credimus; ipsi quoque mente in caelestibus habitemus.

Current ICEL translation: “Grant, we pray, Almighty God, that we who believe that your Only Begotten Son, our Redeemer, ascended this day to the heavens, may in Spirit dwell already in heavenly realms.”

“This day” wasn’t a Sunday.

Blessed Columba Marmion (d 1923), wrote in Christ in His Mysteries that “of all the feasts of Our Lord … the Ascension is the greatest, because it is the supreme glorification of Christ Jesus.” Of this very Collect, “The mystery of Jesus Christ’s Ascension is represented to us in a manner suitable to our nature: we contemplate the Sacred Humanity rising from the earth and ascending visibly towards the heavens.”

In Christ’s “Sacred humanity” is all our humanity sanctified. What was not assumed in the Incarnation, and then Ascension, was not redeemed (St Gregory of Nazianzus). When Christ rose from the tomb, our humanity rose in Him. When to heaven He ascended, we ascended. In Christ, our humanity sits now, in blazing glory, at the Father’s right hand waiting for the fullness of our presence one day. Live so as to reflect the longing of your arrival.

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