Innovative Reform of the Novus Ordo: Vigil of Ascension (2002MR)

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.

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.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, WDTPRS and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. iPadre says:

    Thank God, we still celebrate the Ascension on the Thursday. I would prefer dropping the obligation, than moving the celebration. We have lost so much by the many unnecessary changes to the calendar, that we risk loosing all of the important symbolism of the Liturgical year.

    The whole thing with abrogating the obligation for Holy Days when they fall on Saturday or Monday has all but destroyed the Holy Days. They should have suppressed the obligation completely or left them alone.

  2. Patruus says:

    In the following elegant stanzas of Peter Abelard, it is not only the Apostles who are “adstantes” but also the white-clad angels –

    Ascendentem ad aethera
    nubes excepit lucida;
    ferebatur erectis manibus
    benedicens suis astantibus.

    Ascendentem cernentibus
    ac super hoc mirantibus
    astiterunt in albis angeli
    tam facie quam veste nitidi.

  3. MikeM says:

    I live in one of those dioceses where Ascension Thursday is still on Thursday. I was horrified when I got to college and discovered that there was no Ascension Thursday in that diocese. Of course, my fondness for the holy day might have started off less about religious matters and more about the fact that, in high school, it was a day off before shortly before final exams started.

    On a different note, I don’t know if this has been mentioned here before, but there’s an i-device app for the Lewis and Short dictionary that’s only $3.99. The UI is, let’s say, sparse, but it’s still very usable, and is somewhat easier than looking things up in the online versions on Perseus. Plus, you can always have it with you to make you maximally obnoxious at parties! Here’s a link to the app’s page:

  4. David in T.O. says:

    Father, could you expand on this? For example, when is it intended to be celebrated or is it optional? Is it to be celebrated today or is this the Wednesday of the Sixth Week of Easter. Where Ascension is unfortunately transferred to Sunday, is it the Saturday Anticipated Mass? That would seem to not be the case as 5:00 PM Saturday anticipates Sunday. So, is it earlier in the day? Saturday morning or is it after sundown on the Saturday night as a “vigil?” as the Deacon at a parish where I serve believes is the intent. The same questions apply for the Vigil of Pentecost (and I suppose the existing Vigil of Christmas). At 5:00 on Saturday of Pentecost Sunday as an Anticipated Mass, there is a Sequence, of course in the Vigil, there is not. What is the intent of the Missal in this regard? Thank you.

  5. Priam1184 says:

    Thank you Father. It is always good to be reminded of the beauty and antiquity of the Faith in this era where too many in the Church just want to strip away all of its very ancient foundations and follow current social trends which of course will lead only to ruin. We are after all each and every member of the Catholic Church a member of what is by far the oldest institution in the world. I’m sorry for the rant that really has nothing to do with the prayers of the Acension but it put me in a mind to ponder how ancient our Faith really is. Pentecost is coming up and I have been thinking lately about those people in the street outside the Cenaculum in Jerusalem who heard Peter’s first great sermon and were converted becoming the first members of the same Church that we are members of. Say one was seventy year old man: in his youth he would have heard news of the Battle of Actium where Octavian defeated the forces Marc Antony and Cleopatra and thereby turned the Mediterranean Sea into his own private swimming pool. He would then have learned of their subsequent double suicide. He would have heard of the assassination of Julius Caesar on the floor of the Roman Senate from his parents as an event that they had personal experience of like I heard about the JFK assassination when I was a child. And though none of that compares with the greatest news of all time that he heard that day from the Princeps Apostolorum himself of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, it is worth remembering the bond we have with every member of the Church going back across those many centuries all the way to the beginning. Do not throw this away people. And especially do not throw it away to feel more ‘with it’ in this ludicrous modern culture.

  6. Fr AJ says:

    iPadre, I agree completely and have been saying the same thing for years! Thankfully, I’m in a province that did not move the Ascension.

  7. oscida says:

    How awful to celebrate Ascension Thursday on Sunday. Father Z. could you translate the Collect for the FERIA QUARTA VI PASCHÆ: Annue nobis, quæsumus, Dómine, ut, quemádmodum mystério resurrectiónis Fílii tui sollémnia cólimus, ita et in advéntu eius gaudére cum sanctis ómnibus mereámur. Per Dóminum…
    I am especially curious about the 1st 2 words, Annue nobis.

  8. Mightnotbeachristiantou says:

    Is anyone having (?)Novena to the Holy Spirit for the Seven Gifts( in German it is called Pfinstnovene) in their parishes?

  9. I am in a diocese that went along with Ascension Thursday Sunday. I wrote to my bishop a few years ago to ask him to restore Ascension Thursday, but, well, we still have Ascension Thursday Sunday. However, I can recite the Office for the Ascension on its proper day, and that is what I am doing.

    And since I use the Breviary of Paul VI, and I read this blog, I see that, once again, the old translation of the closing prayer/collect was not really a translation at all, but something totally different from the original. Thank you, Pope Benedict, for restoring faithfulness to liturgical translations!

  10. Long-Skirts says:


    Ascension Thursday’s Sunday
    Corpus Christi got the boot
    And this year since it’s Saturday
    All Saints’ Day will be moot.

    ‘Cause Saturday’s by Sunday
    And Monday just won’t scoot
    And two days in a row for God
    That’s yielding too much fruit.

    So if we play our cards right
    Let money trump all suits
    We’ll end all militant Sundays
    Obliging happy pursuits.

  11. frjim4321 says:

    Well like most provinces we have the observation on Sunday but I understand the rationale for keeping it on the Thursday. It should probably have been kept on the Thursday. I think the conference followed the logic that too many people were “missing” a celebration that was critical to a reasonably basic understanding of salvation history. Generally speaking in this country holy days of obligation with the exception of Christmas are pretty much dead. It’s sad, but it’s true.

    I did find it interesting a couple years ago that as noted here the Vox Clara sacramentary adds a set of prayers for the vigil. I think what is good about that is that it underscores the importance of the Ascension.

    I wonder if the ICEL 1998 product included vigil prayers for the Ascension. I have the pdf’s on my Western Digital Passport but really don’t feel like hunting around for them right now. It would be interesting to see what the genuine, pre-corrupt ICEL did with the 7th C Veronese source material with respect to the vigil.

  12. Vecchio di Londra says:

    Fr Z – Many thanks for your commentary on the texts – inspiring as ever – and many good wishes for your full recovery to health. I shall remember you in my ‘Memento’ prayers when I attend Ascension Thursday Mass tomorrow.

    @iPadre – I completely agree with you: to keep the Ascension on Thursday is much more important than to keep the obligation. (Although one must wonder how previous generations managed to attend a weekday Holyday Mass – perhaps they just tried a bit harder? Had a stronger sense of the need for submission to God’s will? An instinctive harmony with the liturgical year? Fewer social ‘commitments’? :-)
    Ascension Thursday is a vitally symbolic forty days after Easter. (as with Advent, Lent, Christ’s forty days in the wilderness, the Hebrews’ forty years in the desert, etc). Pushing Ascension Thursday onto the nearest Sunday makes a mockery of the Feast, and of Catholic tradition. (The same goes for Epiphany – the end of the twelve days of Christmas, also a symbolic number.)
    It’s as if the bishops think no Catholic can be reasonably expected to turn up at Mass except on a Sunday.
    So are we now going to have Ash Wednesday on a Sunday to correspond? (Yes, I know Lent once did start on a Sunday – but it was altered to the previous Wednesday for precisely this reason of the need for obedience to God’s chronometry.)
    Candlemas, Our Lady’s great Feast of the Purification (Feb 2nd, forty days after the Nativity) has been spared this ignominy only because it is not a Holyday of Obligation. How ironic.

    I look round my own (large) parish church and find it invariably packed to the rafters on any (weekday) Holyday of Obligation. Nor, in the years just before some HoO were arbitrarily shifted to a Sunday, was the church less well attended for weekday Feasts than in former decades. So the ‘felt need’ for change was not there. Perhaps the bishops decided it was more convenient not to have to supply clergy for a full programme of Masses on these days?

    If they could see the overflowing collection baskets at TLM Masses held on days such as 6 Jan (Epiphany) and Ascension Thursday, the hierarchy of E&W might well reconsider.

  13. I am in the same diocese as Anita, and used to be in LA, where Ascension Thursday Sunday was celebrated. This year I’ll be boycotting Ascension Thursday Sunday by going to the Byzantine Parish, and assisting at the TLM on Ascension Thursday. Deo Gratias to our Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI

  14. If I weren’t several hundred miles from Joe (who has to go to a neighboring diocese to attend a Byzantine parish), I’d be joining him!

  15. Robertus Pittsburghensis says:

    I wonder whether it is permissible to use this new collect as an oration for the first vespers of the Ascension.

  16. frjim4321 says:

    Robert, I was under the impression that you’re SUPPOSED to use it.

    But this is not my forte.

Comments are closed.