The Ascension of Our Blessed Lord is celebrated 40 days after His Glorious Resurrection. Therefore, in this year of the Lord, 2016, the feast in the traditional liturgical rite was, as it should be, celebrated on Thursday, 5th May. Regrettably, in recent changes made for certain mid-week feast days in the Novus Ordo rite, the CDF has forwarded the feast of The Ascension onto the following Sunday – thus marking its celebration today, 8th May 2016.
From Saint Andrew Daily Missal
It is in the Basilica of Saint Peter’s, Rome, Dedicated to one of the chief witnesses of Our Lord’s Ascension, that this mystery, which marks the end of Our Lord’s earthly life, is “this day” (Collect) kept.
In the forty days, which followed His Resurrection, Our Redeemer laid the foundations of His Church to which He was going to send The Holy Ghost.
All the Master’s teachings are summed up in the Epistle and Gospel for today. Then, He left this Earth and the Introit, Collect, Epistle, Alleluia, Gospel, Offertory, Secret, Preface and Communion, celebrate His Glorious Ascension into Heaven, where the Souls He had freed from Limbo escort Him (Alleluia), and enter in His train into the Heavenly Kingdom, where they share more fully in His Divinity.
The Ascension sets before us the duty of raising our hearts to God. So, in the Collect, we are led to ask that we may dwell with Christ in Spirit in the Heavenly Realms, where we are called one day to dwell in our Risen Bodies.
During The Octave, the Credo is said: “I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God . . . Who ascended into Heaven . . . He sitteth at the Right-Hand of The Father“. The Gloria speaks in the same sense: “O, Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son . . . Who sittest at the Right-Hand of the Father, have mercy upon us.” In the Proper Preface, which is said until Pentecost, we give thanks to God because His Son, the Risen Christ, “after His Resurrection, appeared and showed Himself to all His Disciples; and, while they beheld Him, was lifted up into Heaven”. In the same way, during the whole Octave, a Proper Communicantes of the feast is said, in which the Church reminds us that she is keeping the day on which the only-begotten Son of God set at the Right-Hand of His Glory the substance of our frail human nature, to which He had united Himself in the Mystery of the Incarnation.
We are reminded daily in the Liturgy, at the Offertory Suscipe Sancta Trinitas, and in the Canon Unde et memores, that, at Our Lord’s command, the Holy Sacrifice is being offered in memory of the “Blessed Passion of the same Christ, Thy Son, Our Lord,” and also His Resurrection from Hell and His Glorious Ascension into Heaven.
The truth is that man is saved only by the Mysteries of The Passion and Resurrection united with that of The Ascension. “Through Thy Death and Burial, through Thy Holy Resurrection, through Thy Admirable Ascension, deliver us, O Lord” (Litany of The Saints).
Let us offer the Divine Sacrifice to God in memory of the Glorious Ascension of His Son (Suscipe, Unde et memores); while we nourish within our souls an ardent desire for Heaven, that :delivered from present dangers,” we may “attain to Eternal Life” (Secret).
Introit: Acts of the Apostles i. 11 and Ps. xliv
Viri Galilaei, quid admiramini aspicientes in caelum? alleluia: quemadmodum vidistis eum ascendentem in caelum, ita veniet, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia. * Omnes gentes, plaudite manibus: jubilate Deo in voce exsultationis.
Ye men of Galilee, why wonder you, looking up to heaven? alleluia. He shall so come as you have seen Him going up into heaven, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia. Ps. O, clap your hands, all ye nations; shout unto God, with the voice of exultation.
Concede, quaesumus, omnipotens Deus: ut, qui hodierna die Unigenitum tuum Redemptorem nostrum ad caelos ascendisse credimus, ipsi quoque mente in caelestibus habitemus.
Grant, we beseech Thee, almighty God, that we who believe Thine only-begotten Son, our Redeemer, to have this day ascended into heaven, may ourselves dwell in spirit amid heavenly things. Through the same Lord.
Epistle: Acts of Apostles i. 1-11
(Christ, having blessed His Apostles, rose in the air by His Divine power, and was soon hidden from the sight of the many witnesses of His Ascension.)
“The blessed Apostles and all the disciples who had been alarmed by Our Lord’s death on the Cross, and had been wavering in their faith in His Resurrection, were so strengthened by the evident truth, that seeing Him ascend into the heights of Heaven , they were not only not stricken with sadness but were filled with a great joy.
And indeed, great and unspeakable was the cause for joy, when in the presence of a holy company, a human nature was raised above the dignity of all heavenly beings, to surpass the angelic orders, to be raised above the highest of the archangels, and not to pause in the glories of this ascent until admitted into the abode of the heavenly Father, it should be made to share in the glory of Him to whose nature it was already united in His Son.
Since the Ascension of Christ is our own uplifting, and body may hope to be one day where its glorious Head has gone before, let us exult, beloved, with fitting sentiments of joy, for in the person of Our Lord we have penetrated to the highest heavens, and have obtained, by the unspeakable grace of Christ, greater gifts than we had lost by the envy of the devil” – St. Leo
Gospel: Mark xvi. 14-20
“After He had eaten with His Apostles, Our Lord ascended into Heaven. He ate before He ascended to make clear by the act of absorbing nourishment, the reality of His flesh. He commanded His disciples to preach the Gospel to every creature and by the expression ‘every creature’ is meant man. For man has something in common with every creature, existence with the stones, life with the plants, consciousness with the animals, intelligence with the angels.” – St. Gregory
Suscipe, Domine, muneera, quae pro Filii tui gloriosa Ascensione deferimus: et concede propitius ut a praesentibus periculis liberemur, et ad vitam perveniamus aeternam. Per eumdem.
Accept, O Lord, the gifts we offer Thee in memory of the glorious Ascension of Thy Son; and graciously grant that being delivered from present dangers, we may attain unto eternal life. Through the same Lord.
Communion: Ps. lxvii. 33-34
Psallite Domino, qui ascendit super caelos, caelorum ad Orientem, alleluia.
Sing ye to the Lord, who mounteth above the heaven of heavens to the east, alleluia.
St. Augustine’s Homily on the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord
Today Our Lord Jesus Christ ascended into Heaven; let our hearts ascend with him. Listen to the words of the Apostle: If you have risen with Christ, set your hearts on the things that are above where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God; seek the things that are above, not the things that are on earth.
For just as he remained with us even after his Ascension, so we too are already in Heaven with him, even though what is promised us has not yet been fulfilled in our bodies.
Christ is now exalted above the heavens, but He still suffers on earth all the pain that we, the members of his body, have to bear. He showed this when He cried out from above: Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? and when He said: I was hungry and you gave me food.
Why do we on earth not strive to find rest with Him in Heaven even now, through the faith, hope and love that unites us to Him? While in Heaven He is also with us; and we while on earth are with Him. He is here with us by his divinity, his power and his love. We cannot be in Heaven, as He is on earth, by divinity, but in Him, we can be there by love.
He did not leave Heaven when He came down to us; nor did He withdraw from us when He went up again into Heaven. The fact that He was in Heaven even while He was on earth is borne out by His own statement: No one has ever ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man, who is in heaven.
These words are explained by our oneness with Christ, for He is our head and we are His body. No one ascended into Heaven except Christ because we also are Christ: He is the Son of Man by His union with us, and we by our union with Him are the sons of God. So the Apostle says: Just as the human body, which has many members, is a unity, because all the different members make one body, so is it also with Christ. He too has many members, but one body.
Out of compassion for us He descended from Heaven, and although He ascended alone, we also ascend, because we are in Him by grace. Thus, no one but Christ descended and no one but Christ ascended; not because there is no distinction between the head and the body, but because the body as a unity cannot be separated from the head.