QUAERITUR: What office to say on Ascension Thursday

From a reader:

I generally go to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass on Sundays but pray the Liturgy of the Hours. 

I live in Los Angeles, CA, one of the areas where Ascension Thursday is moved to Sunday in the Ordinary form.

Since the EF doesn’t move Ascension Day to Sundays and I generally prefer to make use of the traditional calendar whereever possible, can I follow the LotH as written (i.e., Ascension Day on this coming Thursday) or am I obliged to follow what our local Ordinary has instructed (Ascension Thursday Sunday)?

Yes, there is rather a lot of confusion over the decision to transfer Ascension Thursday to become Ascension Thursday Sunday.

Lay people have no obligation to recite the Office, that is, the Liturgy of Hours or the Breviarium Romanum or any of the monastic variations, etc.

You may do as you wish in this regard if you are a layman.

I would also say that even clerics and religious who are bound to the Office can freely choose to use whichever office on Ascension Thursday, the office for the day in the Novus Ordo calendar or Ascension Thursday with the Breviarium Romanum.  We have two uses of the Roman Rite and we may avail ourselves of them.


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  1. AM says:

    Why call the solemnity \”Ascension Thursday\” all the time? In all my Missals old and new it\’s called Ascension, or In Ascensione Domini. No \”Thursday\”. Not like Feria VI in parasceve or Feria IV Cinerum (let \’em try moving _those_ to a nearby Sunday!!) In the diocese where I reside, the solemnity In Ascensione Domini falls on Sunday, May 24, this year. Sure, from tradition, it would be better to observe it on Thursday, May 21, but we don\’t. The bishop said.

  2. AM says:

    Ah. Rational rant duly noted, with thanks.

  3. Rob F. says:

    As I understand it, the obligation to attend *mass* on Thursday was dropped, and therefore parishes are required to offer the mass *in Ascensione Domini* on the following Sunday so that the faithful can assist then.

    I don’t think there is any *necessary* transfer of the obligation for the *office*.

    In the new Liturgy of the Hours, there is an option to move the Ascension to Sunday for those who want to keep their office celebrations in sync with their eucharistic celebrations, but I know of no obligation to do so.

    My wife and I celebrated the office of Epiphany on January 6 at home even though we had attended the mass of epiphany on the previous Sunday. That previous Sunday we had celebrated the office of the 2nd Sunday of Christmas.

    Fortunately for us, we live in a diocese where Ascension Thursday is still a holy day of obligation.

  4. Mark M says:


    If I may respectfully disagree with you? My understanding was that the local Ordinary or Bishops’ Conference had the competency to move the obligation and external celebration of a particular feast, but that this did not impact on the office in any fashion. It would be my understanding that the Office cannot be transferred except where it must be impediment, e.g. November 2nd falling on a Saundy.

    [Thanks for that. Hopefully we can get to the bottom of that. However, since the laity are not generally bound to the office (acknowledging that most religious and consecrated virgins ar lay people in the sense that they are not clerics), they can do whatever they want.]

    As regards the previous comment by AM, the Breviary does note that it is properly a Thursday.

    God bless you,

  5. chris p says:

    The reason for this question (I asked it) was because in the St. Joseph Guide, it says the following (and I am going to use their formatting, not meaning to shout):

    “IN THOSE STATES WHICH HAVE CHOSEN THE OPTION, ASCENSION IS TRANFERRED FROM THURSDAY TO THE SEVENTH SUNDAY OF EASTER: They are to follow the specified rubrics below until Monday of the 7th week of Easter.”

    Since I follow the traditional calendar on Sundays, my question was how to relate this to my usage of the Hours.

  6. chris p says:


    “TRANFERRED” should read as “TRANSFERRED”

    Sorry for any inconvenience my lack of editing may have caused. ;-)

  7. Geoffrey says:

    I am a layman who prays the Liturgy of the Hours as well, and things like this always confuse me. In the past, I would observe the office of Ascension on Thursday and then feel “left-out” on Sunday, and vice-versa.

    This year I am thinking of praying the office of the Ascension on both Thursday AND Sunday. The same goes for Corpus Christi Thursday/Sunday (which really isn’t as big of a deal as is moving Ascension…

    Doesn’t something like that happen in the Extraordinary Form? Why am I thinking of the phrase “external solemnity”?

  8. carl says:

    It is my understanding that the Office is affected by the transferrance of a feast. The American translation of the LH seems to provide for this. On Thursday of the Sixth Week, it reads “Where the solemnity of the Ascension is transferred to Sunday, the following is said:”. It doesn’t say “may be said”, but is. Also, look at GILH 241-243:

    241. The office in choir and in common is to be celebrated according to the proper calendar of the diocese, of the religious family, or of the individual churches. [3] Members of religious institutes join with the community of the local Church in celebrating the dedication of the cathedral and the feasts of the principal patrons of the place and of the wider geographical region in which they live. [4]

    242. When clerics or religious who are obliged under any title to pray the divine office join in an office celebrated in common according to a calendar or rite different from their own, they fulfill their obligation in respect to the part of the office at which they are present.

    243. In private celebration, the calendar of the place or the person’s own calendar may be followed, except on proper solemnities and on proper feasts. [5]

    So if those obliged to say the Office, when saying it in choir or common, must say it according to the local calendar. I don’t see why the transferrence of the day would not fall under this.

    I think 243 is referring to cases in which a cleric is visiting another diocese; that’s the only way I can make sense of it. Otherwise, in private celebration, they could follow any calendar they liked. So, for Latin rite clerics in dioceses where the solemnity is transferred, it seems they must transfer the Office, unless they 1) accompany another community with a different calendar to say the Office (per GILH 242) or 2) say the EF of the Office, even in private (per SP and the dubium the LMS submitted to PCED).

    Fr Z, I know that laymen aren’t bound to the calendar of their diocese, since we aren’t even bound to say the Office, though I think its good for us if we act as though we are. It’s a good exercise in humility and obedience. And for those of us who are inclined, this situation can push us towards the EF. This is what’s happened with me. In the OF, I won’t not transfer Ascension. But, I detest this, so the past few weeks I’ve been learning to say the EF of the office, which I’m finding is much richer, and preferable to me. I would encourage others to do the same, if they can.

  9. Rob F. says:

    Carl presented quite a challenge to my interpretation of the rubrics of the Liturgy of the Hours, and backed up his challenge with relevent citations. In defence of my practice, let me cite his emminence, Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos, as reported here: http://the-hermeneutic-of-continuity.blogspot.com/2008/06/cardinal-castrillon-clarifies-holyday.html

    Although he is talking about the Mass, rather than the Office, he sees no problem with celebrating Ascension mass on two days. He also comments that the dates of the holy days of obligation have not changed in the Missal, although certain dioceses have been granted permission to move the holy days of obligation.

    So if the *date* doesn’t change, but the holy day of obligation does move, what does that mean? Doesn’t it mean that it is the obligation that is moved, and not the Calendar date? It seems to me that this effectively provides an out for those of us who want to celebrate on Thursday while still keeping the Calendar per 241-243.

    So I think I am on firm ground when I say that one could celebrate the Office of the Ascension on two days, just like the Mass. But I go further, and assert that you can also celebrate it on just one day, the traditional day. My reasoning is thus: The purpose to moving the Mass to Sunday is to allow a celebration of the mystery of the Ascension to more of the faithful. But if you are praying your breviary every day, and you have already celebrated the mystery in the Office, then the need to celebrate the mystery in the Office again is obviated.

    Further, Ascension is a holy day of obligation, and the obligation is precisely the obligation to attend Mass. There is no “day of obligation” for the Office. One is either obligated to pray the Office every day, or one is not obligated to pray the Office any day. In either case, there is no need to pray the Office of the Ascension on Sunday when it has already been prayed on Thursday.

    Obviously, nothing I have said above precludes the *option* of moving the observance to Sunday alone, where the holy day of obligation has been moved to that day. This option is adequately described in the rubrics for the days in question.

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