Today (June 2) the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord. In the past, the Ascension of the Lord was celebrated on Ascension Thursday, forty days after Easter. With the liturgical renewal following the Second Vatican Council, dioceses were given the option of celebrating the Solemnity on the Seventh Sunday of Easter. This was to honor the importance of the Feast. Given that Thursday was a workday and schoolday it was very difficult for many people to participate at Mass on that day. Also, as it was a moveable feast, many people lost track of the Feast and forgot about fulfilling their obligation on that day. In my experience, Ascension Thursday Masses were lightly attended.
Moving the Feast to Sunday, when the entire community comes together to celebrate, better honors this important belief of us Christians. In John’s gospel, Jesus’ return to the Father and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit all happen on the same day, Easter Day. For John, Jesus’ return to the Father is the most important, since it is only by doing so that he can send the Holy Spirit to his disciples. We celebrate Easter Sunday, the Ascension, and Pentecost on separate days in order to honor their individual importance. The liturgical celebrations of Ascension (forty days after Easter) and Pentecost (fifty days after Easter) also follow the timeline found in Luke’s gospel and his Acts of the Apostles. However, the numbering of those days seems to be more symbolic than historical. In any case, today is one of the greatest feasts of the liturgical year for us Catholics.
We encourage you to wear your red and white clothing to Mass next Sunday as we bring the Easter Season to a close with the celebration of Pentecost. Let us set our worship space on fire with the Holy Spirit.
Next Sunday is also the liturgical anniversary of our Sunday Evening Mass. It began on Pentecost Sunday, May 20, 2018. It has been all that we hoped it would be. If you have joined us for that liturgy you have noticed that we do things a bit differently. We have tried to set a more relaxed atmosphere by foregoing the opening procession and having the presider sit in the pews among the assembly. We also introduce the Mass differently and make announcements at that time in order to enhance the flow and energy of the liturgy. And our music ministers use the keyboard and at times the guitar for more contemporary hymns. While this was in some ways an attempt to reach out more intentionally to our young people, many of the older generations tend to appreciate it as well. One indication that this Mass is different is that, unlike our other Sunday liturgies where literally hundreds of parishioners leave during communion or before the final procession reaches the back of the worship space, almost everyone stays to the completion of our Sunday Night Mass. Ushers tell me that fewer than a dozen worshipers leave early!
We are still in need of nominees for the upcoming selection of members of the Pastoral Council, Which will take place next Sunday.