In some places the Feast of the Ascension (which since the 4th century has fallen on a Thursday) has been transferred to next Sunday, thus making it “Ascension Thursday Sunday”. I’ll rant about the transfer in another entry.
The 3rd edition of the Missale Romanum of 2002 now provides us with a Mass for the Vigil of Ascension, which wasn’t in previous editions of the Novus Ordo.
The prayers for the new Vigil of Ascension are not the same as those found in the pre-Conciliar Missale for the Vigil.
In case you don’t have the Latin texts, here are the antiphons for the Vigil. Ant. ad introitum: Regna terrae cantata Deo, psallite Domino, qui ascendit super caelum caeli; magnificentia et virtus eius in nubibus, alleluia. (Ps 67:33,35) Ant. ad communionem: Christus, unam pro peccatis offerens hostiam, in sempiterum sedet in dextera Dei, alleluia. (Cf. Heb 10:12)
Deus, cuius Filus hodie in caelos,
Apostolis astantibus, ascendit,
concede nobis, quaesumus,
ut secundum eius promissionem
et ille nobiscum semper in terris
et nos cum eo in caelo vivere mereamur.
This was modified from a prayer in ancient sacramentaries such as the Liber Sacramentorum when it was used on Ascension Thursday having its Station Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica.
The eucological formulas (the collection of prayers), for the Ascension are the probably oldest prayers we have in the Roman liturgy! They are found in what was once often called the Leonine Sacramentary, which survived in one 7th c. manuscript in Verona, thus making it what modern scholars call it: the Veronese Sacramentary.
You might not immediately recognize astantibus as being from asto or adsto, which that ascendant lexicon of Latin lemmata, the Lewis & Short Dictionary, says means, “to stand at or near a person or thing, to stand by” The L&S will also inform you that asto has the synonym adsisto.
If you have ever heard the phrase “to assist (adsisto) at Holy Mass” this is the concept: you are present and actively participating.
Also, during the Roman Canon, the priest describes the people as circumstantes, “standing around”. This doesn’t mean they there around the altar with their hands in the their pockets (though I admit I have seen that happen). Rather, they are there morally and spiritually “around” the altar, participating each according to their vocation and capacity. So, circumstantes is used to identify the baptized who are present.
The Apostles, who were adstantes, actively participating in the Lord’s Ascension before, during and after the actual moment if the Ascension, both listened to the Lord and watched the Lord. Similarly, at Holy Mass we actively participate before, during and after the consecration, both by listening to the Lord speak through the texts and watching what the Lord does in the liturgical action.
O God, whose Son today ascended
into the heavens as the Apostles were standing close by,
grant us, we beseech You,
that, according to His promise,
we may be worthy both that He lives with us on earth,
and that we live with Him in heaven.
NEW CORRECTED ICEL (2011):
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,
and we with him in heaven.
When the Second Person took up our human nature into an indestructible bond with His divinity we were thereby destined to sit at God’s right hand, first in Christ and then on our own.
Christ makes us worthy, no one else. Christ alone. It’s all His.
Because it’s His, it’s ours.
Our Lord’s Ascension brought our humanity to the right hand of the Father in glory, a first-fruit and token of what awaits us.