Fr. Z has published his annual rant about the practice of moving the observation of the Feast of the Ascension from Thursday to Sunday. This is silly he argues (correctly), since the feast was fixed for 40 days after Easter (a Thursday) from the late 4th century, reflecting that Christ appeared for 40 days after the Resurrection (Acts 1:2). Pentecost, as implied by its name is celebrated 50 days after Easter on Sunday.
Thankfully here in the Ecclesiastical Province of New York, we’ve kept the traditional day, as have some other northeastern provinces and the Province of Omaha.
Fr. Z. misses, however, I believe, one part of why this change was sold so easily to much of the United States.
Before the calendar reforms of 1955, Ascension was celebrated with an octave. This meant that the Sunday following the Feast of the Ascension was a continued part of the celebration of the Ascension. This celebration carried through all the way to the next Thursday. Then you had two penitential days of preparation, a Friday and the Vigil of Pentecost, before the celebration of the Great Feast of Pentecost. But with the “Sunday after Ascension” being just another Easter Sunday (of which we’ve already had a great many), the end of the Easter season is left rather shapeless.
Now, I don’t advocate for moving the Feast of the Ascension to Sunday, but I can sort of understand why they do it. There’s something missing in those last weeks of Easter and shifting Ascension helps fill the emptiness. You can guess what my solution would be…
Now for some appropriate music by Messiaen to accompany this post: