Friday, June 3, 2011

The Biggest Problem with Ascension Thursday/Sunday

As you may or may not know, Christ ascended into heaven 40 days after Easter. 40 days after Easter is always a Thursday, but recently, at least in the U.S., it has been left to the prerogative of each bishop to decide if the Ascension is celebrated on Thursday or celebrated three days later on Sunday.

This angers and confuses people for a lot of reasons that you have probably heard elsewhere. A problem I have with it is this - for 4 days we as a Church are not praying with one voice.

Throughout the world there is constantly Mass being offered, and those Masses, while in different languages, are still the same words. Taking this past Monday for example the opening prayer was the same prayer throughout the world, the readings were the same across the globe, the prayer before the holy, holy, holy was the same, etc. Also, the Liturgy of the Hours that are prayed by all priests and religious daily (morning prayer, daytime prayer, evening prayer, etc.) are always the same prayers, readings, responses, petitions, etc. There is a real power in that one prayer being lifted up to God by His Church.

This week, Thursday through Sunday, the one Body of Christ is praying in a bipolar way. Some of the Body of Christ is celebrating the Ascension on Thursday, while everyone else uses readings and prayers from the regular Thursday of the 6th week of Easter; same goes for the Liturgy of the Hours. Friday is no different, nor is Saturday or Sunday. Trying to keep the Mass texts straight and keeping one's breviary (priest prayer book for the Liturgy of the Hours) straight has been a nightmare. What is normally a straightforward experience is confusing during these four days. In the Breviary one finds instructions like this:

"Where the solemnity of the Ascension is transferred to Sunday, the verse, readings, and responsories are taken from Saturday of the Sixth Week of Easter, pg. 946" and the same page flipping occurs in the Sacramentary and the Lectionary as well.

This was a little piece that occurred in the Lectionary for last Sunday: "When the Ascension of the Lord is celebrated on the following Sunday, the second reading and Gospel from the Seventh Sunday of Easter (see no. 59) may be read on the Sixth Sunday of Easter."

It just breaks up the unity, and I think we'd be better served picking one option and rolling with it as a Church.

If the goal is to keep people free of the mortal sin of missing a Holy Day of Obligation, we can give up on that effort now since most parishes get about 3% of their parish population coming to Holy Day services nowadays anyways. Either we should move all Holy Days to the following Sunday or leave them all alone. Either way, we need to get on the same page as a Church and leave the bipolar nature of our prayer during these 4 confusing days behind.