Vigil of Ascension Thursday

Here is an excerpt from the WDTPRS article in the print version, which ought to be either inthe mail or in your mail boxes by now.

…(I)n some places the Feast of the Ascension, which falls always on a Thursday, has been transferred to this Sunday.  That would make it “Ascension Thursday Sunday”, I suppose.  In addition, the third edition of the Missale Romanum issued in 2002 now provides us with a Mass for the Vigil of Ascension, which wasn’t in previous editions of the Novus Ordo.  Moreover, the prayers for the new Vigil of Ascension are not the same as those found in the pre-Conciliar Missale for the Vigil.  Also, there are now proper Masses for the days after Ascension, most having alternative collects depending on whether or not in that region Ascension is transferred to Sunday. Since many people do not have access to the prayers for the Vigil of Ascension, let’s look at them this week.  First, here are the antiphons. 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.  Here is some liturgical education for you.  The eucological formulas (the prayers), for the Ascension found in what is sometimes called the Leonine Sacramentary surviving in one 7th century manuscript in Verona (the Veronese Sacramentary) are the oldest prayers we have in the Roman liturgy!  The Missale Romanum and those ancient collections consist principally in prayers for Masses which in fancy liturgist talk are called “eucological formulas”.
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.

When the Second Person took up our human nature into an indestructible bond with His divinity, indestructible, 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.  And because it’s His, it’s ours. 

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Tim Ferguson says:

    Our pastor, last Sunday, gave a brief tirade from the pulpit against the whole concept of Ascension Thursday Sunday, especially since it means that those of us who attend the Tridentine Mass will miss out on the Solemnity of the Ascension again this year, unless we go to Mass twice this Sunday (the Archdiocesan indult doesn’t – yet – extend to Holy Days, only Sundays)/

    Fortunately for myself, I’ll be travelling to Minnesota this weekend, and will get a tatse of the Ascension – at St. Agnes, nonetheless!

  2. … especially since it means that those of us who attend the Tridentine Mass will miss out on the Solemnity of the Ascension again this year

    I wonder whether he’s familar with external solemnities. For example, an External Solemnity of the Ascension celebrated on the following Sunday for pastoral reason in a locality where no traditional Latin Mass is available to the faithful during the week.

  3. And, Tim, your good pastor’s heartfelt sympathies might also be extended to the millions of Catholics in the ecclesiastical provinces of Boston, Hartford, New York, Newark, Philadelphia, and the State of Nebraska which have retained the celebration of the Ascension of the Lord on its proper Thursday. The 95% of them who attend Mass only on Sunday will therefore “miss out on the Solemnity of the Ascension again this year”, and will have to content themselves this Sunday with the Mass of the 7th Sunday of Easter.

    But, in any event, I wonder how many Catholics have long since tuned out the vernacular propers at Sunday Mass, and hence are pretty much oblivious to the Church calendar as manifested in liturgical prayer.

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