LOOK UP THERE: A BIRD, A PLANE, IT’S . . . IT’S . . .
Mark 16:19 and Luke 24:51
Brothers and Sisters,
There are several truly wonderful hymns about the Ascension of Christ into Heaven. One of my favorites is the hymn “Alleluia, Sing to Jesus.” Here is one of the verses:
Not as orphans are we left in sorrow now.
He is near us, faith believes nor questions how.
Though the cloud from sight received Him
when the forty days were o’er,
shall our hearts forget His promise:
“I AM with you evermore’?
It’s wonderful, it’s inspiring, and it’s uplifting to sing, but here’s what makes it a great hymn: the text is based on the Bible (even paraphrasing it) and the song is ultimately a prayer. That’s a great standard.
The Bible, of course, gives reference to Christ’s Ascension into Heaven and the tradition has been that this happened forty days after the Resurrection. I bet lots of us remember celebrating “Ascension Thursday” because of this. Lately, however, most (though certainly not all) dioceses of the United States have transferred this solemnity to the following weekend. Near to us, Nebraska and until recently Chicago kept this celebration on Thursday; most of the NorthEastern states have kept Ascension on Thursday as well. However, nearly all of the rest of the Catholics in our country have celebrated Ascension on the weekend following the fortieth day of Easter.
Many of us may have our own preference of when we should celebrate the Ascension many of us have no opinion either way, and many might even be surprised to know that there is some debate about this. Here’s my only contribution to the discussion: both are fine. They are both worthy celebrations of Christ’s triumphant return to the heavens. Whether we celebrate it on a Thursday or on a weekend ought not be something that stirs us to anger or worry. When I first learned of this, I began to consider which camp I would fall into for this debate. Quickly, though, I was reminded that the precise date of Easter changes every year; we don’t always celebrate Easter on 01 April as we did this year. Further, even Christmas – always the twenty-fifth of December – was a guess-date. The Church has never claimed to know that Christ was born precisely on that date of the year; rather it is merely the date we celebrate the birth of Christ (whenever it actually took place . . . who knows? – although I have a guess if you would like to ask me).
See you next weekend to celebrate the Ascension!
God be near,