The Solemnity of the Ascension of Our Lord celebrates the day on which Jesus Christ, 40 days after His rising from the dead, ascended bodily into heaven. This feast which has been traditionally celebrated on the 40th day after Easter Sunday is always a Thursday. This year, however, the feast in Southern Africa and many other Dioceses around the world has been transferred to the following Sunday, the 43rd day after Easter Sunday. This does not mean, however, that the Ascension is no longer a Holy Day of Obligation. Keep in mind that under the Precepts of the Church, every Sunday is a Holy day of Obligation.
The Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference, in accordance with canon law, petitioned the Holy See to allow the celebration to be transferred to the following Sunday.
Moving the celebration to Sunday serves as an effort to offer everybody the opportunity to attend Holy Mass on this Feast Day, since an immense crowd of parishioners cannot attend Mass on that Thursday due to reasons which is beyond their control.
This important Feast Day, of the Ascension of the Lord serves as the hope of our glorification and a guarantee to meet our Lord in Heaven. It is a reminder of our salvation, a reminder that our true home is in heaven.
It is also a reminder for all of us, not just of what awaits us when we die, but also what we need to do while still alive, because Jesus before His Ascension commissioned His disciples, and us too, to be His witnesses and to carry out His mission to the ends of the earth until his return. A big task indeed! But before we can proclaim Jesus to others, keep in mind that our first task is to make sure that we make Jesus the Lord of our own hearts, and then we can proclaim the Good news to others not only through our words and actions but also through our lives.
Fr. Paul Beukes
Episcopal Vicar for Liturgy