Feast of the Ascension and the Septena


So yesterday was the Feast of Ascension. At least, in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, it was. And also in Boston, Hartford, New York, Newark, and Nebraska. But in the rest of the United States, the Feast has been transferred to the following Sunday, effectively pre-empting the 7th Sunday of Easter. Jimmy Akin views this schizophrenia as an absurdity. After all, of all the feast days that are celebrated in the Church, this is one that we actually have some data to indicate that it might actually have fallen on a Thursday. So why move it to Sunday? Don’t answer. I know, I know, contemporary people cannot be expected to rouse themselves from their routine to actually go to church twice in a week. Our sensitive complexions must not be inconvenienced.

However, my main interest in this situation lies in another odd fact that occurs as a consequence of transferring the Holy Day. In those dioceses that celebrate the Ascension on a Sunday, the faithful who are so inclined to pray a novena leading up to Pentecost end up starting their prayers for the coming of the Holy Spirit before Christ has even ascended. And as Jesus said,

It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.

In other words, Jesus has to ascend before the Spirit can descend.

This is made all the stranger by the fact that it is specifically these nine days between Ascension and Pentecost that came to be the historical basis for the novena. In some dioceses these days, there are only 7 liturgical days between the two feasts. Are they coining a new prayer, the septena?

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~ by Rob on May 26, 2006.

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