01 June 2011

Repost FYI--Ascension Thursday Sunday Thursday Day

Thursday, Catholics will again come to grips with the Great Ascension Thursday Switcheroo. Like Epiphany, the Feast of Our Lord's Ascension is transferred to the following Sunday (in most of the United States including local Dioceses). Unlike Epiphany, the Ascension is a Holy Day of Obligation in the United States. Therefore, there is often a cause for confusion for the faithful:
  • do we still have the obligation to assist at Mass on Thursday?
  • can the Feast of the Ascension be celebrated on Thursday?
  • does the traditional calendar still apply to the traditional Mass?
Well, I will try to help.

First, Sundays are always obligatory, so Ascension "Sunday" is of course a day of obligation. As lamentable and illogical as moving Ascension Thursday to Sunday remains, however, the decision of the Bishops' conference to do so does remove the obligation to assist at Mass on Thursday. So a Catholic does not sin by failing to assist at Mass on that day, regardless of the form of Mass one chooses.

On the other hand, in response to a dubium submitted by the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales in 2008, the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei clarified that the traditional Missal presupposes the traditional calendar. [(update) Universae Ecclesiae further confirmed this fact]. In other words, the Vatican confirms that it is perfectly legitimate that the Mass of Ascension Thursday actually be the Mass of Ascension Thursday. And further the PCED stated that it was "appropriate" that the Feast of the Ascension also be celebrated on the transferred Sunday.

The PCED's confirmation of the legitimacy of the nearly two millenia-old tradition of celebrating our Lord's Ascension on that Thursday does not surprise. What is noteworthy is that although the PCED finds it appropriate to also celebrate it on Sunday, it does not require it.

All of which I relate to clarify the situation for readers. That being said, why not go Thursday to a Church that celebrates the Feast on its proper day?


doughboy said...

So if you assist at the EF on Thursday for the Feast of the Ascension, does that mean you'll be celebrating it twice if you assist at the EF on Sunday, too? Would you have the same readings?

thetimman said...

Nope-- Mass on Sunday in the EF is for the Sunday after Ascension.

dulac90 said...

Here's my curve ball, Timman:

I travel to a transferring diocese for Thursday with no EF to be found, but go to Mass at the nearby NO. I return to my beloved EF by Sunday for the Sunday after Ascension. Not having assisted at a Mass for the Ascension that year, is there sin in that? Am I obliged to go to my local NO on Sunday after the Ascension?

thetimman said...


The obligation to assist at Mass on a day of obligation is satisfied by attendance at a Catholic Mass, and the feast celebrated by that Mass is (for purposes of meeting your obligation) irrelevant. So, while it is certainly a bummer to miss the Mass for the Ascension, you are covered.

There may be an SSPX chapel where you are travelling; the PCED has stated one may attend Mass there if one does not do so for a "schismatic" purpose. I don't think wanting to observe the two thousand year old, actual, customary date of this great feast would be schismatic; I certainly hope it hasn't come to that. If you have questions, check with your spiritual director.

Anonymous said...

Were our Bishops so short-sighted so as not to see the confusions that could've been easily avoided by just keeping Ascension Thursday on Thursday?

Anonymous said...

thetimman, Are you sure your answer above is airtight? I ask this because one cannot regard a wedding Mass celebrated after 4:00pm on a Saturday evening as fulfilling one's Sunday Mass. Do you follow my logic

thetimman said...

Sorry it took me awhile to get back to you. I was on the road when I read it, and forgot to comment when I got back. I am pretty sure I'm right, here is a link from Jimmy Akin on the Thursday/Sunday thing:


As for your assertion about Vigil of Sunday Masses, I don't know if that is true, but even if it is, it is a different case. There, the day of celebration is not in dispute. Any Mass on Sunday qualifies. For example, say you attended Mass of the first Sunday of Advent at an Eastern Catholic church. They would have a different Mass for that day--i.e., not Advent as we call it. You still meet your obligation.

Your case is for a Mass on the Vigil of a day. I don't think that you are right though, the timing of the Mass, not the subject matter "feast", is the key. Check out this somewhat related post at Akin's site here:


As you can see from the gymnastics necessary in his Christmas examples, it is another good reason to question why the traditional way of doing these things was monkeyed with.