QUAERITUR: Ascension Thursday Mass obligation where Ascension Thursday is really on Thursday

From a reader:

A local priest regularly celebrates Mass in the Extraordinary Form on Wednesday evenings. We are also in a diocese that observes the Ascension on Thursday.

How do vigil Masses work with the EF in this case?

The “Vigil of the Ascension” is different from the actual Ascension, but now a Mass the evening before a Holy Day of Obligation is normally the Mass for that day in the Ordinary Form. If the Mass on Wednesday night is the EF “Vigil of the Ascension” does it, well, “count” for Thursday?

Thanks for that question.

According to the 1983 Code of Canon Law (for the Latin Church) you fulfill your obligation by going to Mass on the day of obligation itself, or on the evening before the day of obligation.

Canon 1248 says:

1. The precept of participating in the Mass is satisfied by assistance at a Mass which is celebrated anywhere in a Catholic rite either on the holy day or on the evening of the preceding day.

Thus, since every Sunday is a day of obligation, you fulfill your obligation be attending Holy Mass on a Saturday evening, provided the Mass is in a Catholic rite, such as the Roman Rite in either the Ordinary or Extraordinary Form, or a Maronite Catholic liturgy, etc.

Thus, since you happily live in a place where Ascension Thursday is on Thursday, if you attend Holy Mass on Wednesday evening, the Vigil of Ascension, in either the Ordinary or the Extraordinary Form, or even the Divine Liturgy in, say, a Ukrainian Catholic church, you fulfill your obligation for Ascension Thursday.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. DLe says:

    That brings up a (perhaps rather silly) question I’ve held in my mind for a bit and seek a bit of clarification for: If I live in an archdiocese where “the Ascension of the Lord is celebrated on the Seventh Sunday of Easter ,” will an EF mass I plan to go to on that Sunday fulfill the obligation for the Ascension, or will I have to attend an OF? Thanks in advance.

  2. tominrichmond says:

    Here’s the situation as explained in our Sunday bulletin by our FSSP pastor:
    “The Ecclesia Dei Commission has recently ruled that for those who use the Extraordinary Form of Mass, (us) our only celebration of this feast is on Ascension Thursday. However, the local bishops alone can decide whether it’s a day of obligation. This Thursday is NOT a Holy Day of Obligation, but rather a Holy Day of Opportunity!”

    Such is the situation in the Diocese of Richmond, apparently.

  3. Ernesto Gonzalez says:

    DLe: The obligation is to attend any Catholic Mass on the day or the evening before. The obligation is not to attend a particular Mass.

    That is why Father Z mentions the the Maronites and the Ukrainian Rites. Those Catholic Rites using the eastern calendar will celebrate the Ascension on May 24 this year, but a Latin Rite catholic could still fulfill the obligation by attending a Divine Liturgy on May 17.

  4. Ernesto Gonzalez says:

    DLe: So you will not have to find an OF Mass, because an EF Mass is definitely a Catholic Mass.


  6. DLe says:

    Ernesto Gonzalez, tominrichmond: Thanks guys!

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