Thursday, May 14, 2015

Ascension Thursday

by Fra Angelico
Ascension Thursday is a big feast day in the Catholic Church, so big that it is a Holy Day of Obligation, one of the 10 established by the Church, one of the 6 celebrated in the United States (they vary from country to country). It is the beginning of the end of the official Easter Season, and takes place 40 days after Easter, a feasting period that corresponds to the fasting of Lent. I don't like math, but the number symbolism present everywhere is fascinating to me.
We don't actually read about the Ascension of Christ in today's Gospel. All the gospels end more or less vaguely around the time of the Ascension, but none have the actual description. The details of the Ascension are described in the Acts of the Apostles, and we read the beginning today as the Epistle. Why would the Gospels not go into the detail that the Acts do? This question occurs to me every year. We read the beginning of the Acts with Our Lord's last lesson that He will ever teach on Earth, preparing us for the coming of the Holy Ghost. He eats with the Apostles, possibly meaning that He celebrates Mass with them like He did at the Last Supper. The apostles are once more shown to be naïve, we see that they don't really understand, because Our Lord has to tell them once more that He will not be an earthly ruler. They really haven't learned yet! But they have faith enough to obey Our Lord's last command, to stay in Jerusalem until the Holy Ghost comes.
Finally, the epistle leaves us with a quotation that brings hope to the holy and despair to the wicked: 
"Ye Men of Galilee, why stand you looking up into Heaven? This Jesus, who is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come as you have seen Him going into heaven."
After the Gospel, the Paschal candle is snuffed out, because Christ is no longer here on earth with us.