Friday, May 14, 2010

Ascension Sunday

I have provoked a rather terse reaction to a comment I made in the combox to a previous post about obedience and the transfer of the Ascension and other Holy Days to the nearest Sunday.

The Latin Mass Society's 2010 Ordo for the Liturgy celebrated in the Extraordinary Form is published on the website of the Liturgy Office of the Bishops Conference of England & Wales.

In that Ordo one reads the following:
External Solemnity of a Holyday of Obligation in England and Wales
The Bishops of England and Wales have requested that any Holyday of Obligation in England and Wales that is transferred to a Sunday in the New Rite (the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite) should likewise be celebrated on that same day in the Old Rite (the Extraordinary Form). Subsequent to the production of last year’s Ordo a reply by the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei (N107/97 20 October 2008), to a dubium from the LMS, was received. This confirmed that such an external solemnity is regulated according to the General Rubrics of the Missal (356-361). It further confirmed that it is legitimate to continue to celebrate the Mass and Office of these holydays on the days prescribed in the 1962 Calendar. The solutions in Appendix 2 have been compliled in accordance with these norms.
In Appendix 2, the following is set out:
External Solemnity of a Holyday of Obligation
Only 2 Low Masses, or 1 Low and 1 High or Sung Mass, are allowed.

Sun          In all DIOCESES of ENGLAND & WALES
16 May    ad lib EXTERNAL SOLEMNITY of the ASCENSION of the LORD
                VM 2 Cl W
                Gl Cr Pr of the Ascension Proper Communic
                (No commem of Sunday)
There is a contradiction between the above and the following statement which appears on the Liturgy Office's website:
Following a request for information the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales submitted a dubium to the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei which confirmed that in the Roman Rite, whichever Form of the liturgy is being celebrated, the Holydays of Obligation are held in common. Where the obligation has been removed and the Holyday transferred to the Sunday, the Epiphany of the Lord, the Ascension of the Lord and Corpus Christ, this is to be followed in both Ordinary and Extraordinary celebrations of Mass.
Where there is a doubt of law the law does not bind. The Liturgy Office publishes neither the text nor the protocol number of the dubium and the response. The LMS Appendix at least gives the date and protocol number of the reply to their dubium and gives details. It would appear therefore that one can celebrate either the Mass of the Sunday after the Ascension or the Mass of the Ascension.

Maybe I am being pernickety but I do feel it is important to be seen to want to obey and to take the trouble to find out what the Church permits/recommends. The attitude of some appears to imply a general disrespect for the Bishops of England & Wales which is not healthy. Now I have taken the trouble, I am content with either solution. But I daresay there will be those who would not be happy to find a priest celebrating the Ascension in the Extraordinary Form this Sunday.


  1. Father:

    I have often been reminded by friends that 'in the Octave' it was often the practice to celebrate the particular day's Mass on the Sunday. Now I know that Ascension no longer has an octave, but it's still relevant.

    Now that you have the Protocol Number, can we not ask PCED to reveal the text? It beggars belief why, when it relates to worship, everything must be so secretive. But equally, I think PCED must also take some blame here... when will it assemble all the dubia into a cohesive and coherent set of norms?

    There was much discussion in the past about either this dubium or a similar one (I forget); at any rate, the upshot was that whilst the obligation is transferred, one cannot prohibit the celebration of the feast on its right day, *but* that one ought to celebrate it again on the Sunday. Feels kludgy, but I guess it'll have to do for now?

  2. The sooner a full instruction is published by PCED the better. They were working on one but have not published it. I daresay they want to get all the questions answered before publishing anything definitive. In the meantime we live with uncertainty - which shouldn't be a problem. Leaves us with some freedeom.

  3. I feel that one consideration in this situation is that individual priests and congregations should act in a way that favours the unity of the Church in its Liturgical celebration. That seems to me to suggest that the EF should celebrate the Ascension on the Sunday, as it is clearly the intention/wish of the Bishops of England and Wales that the feast is celebrated on that day, PCED's response notwithstanding.

  4. But interesting that the Holy Father celebrated the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima rather than Ascension last Thursday.


  5. Joe:

    What if the Bishops are, quite simply, wrong?

    I'm not trying to be snide, but actually asking the question. Just because we can move the obligation of something, does it mean it's right? What about the symbolism of the number of days, the historicity of it being celebrated on a Thursday etc

  6. Yes, the Holy Father would respect the local calendar and therefore not celebrate Ascension on the Thursday. Unless he is celebrating Mass out in the diocese of Rome, it is quite likely that he will not celebrate an Ascension Mass since it is observed on the Thursday in the Vatican.

    Joe: there are conflicting factors in play here. Those attached to the EF would be attached also to the calendar, and therefore consider the calendar integral to the EF. On the other hand, there is supposed to be only one Roman Rite, with two forms. We need PCED to sort out a uniform calendar for the two forms, and a ruling on the authority of the local Episcopal Conference. It seems that the authority granted by Canon and Liturgical Law to Episcopal Conferences to move Holy Days to the Sundays has been withdrawn by PCED. This is anachronistic. As much as I disagreed with the Episcopal Conference's decision, I uphold their right to legislate on this matter. Until there is a definitive ruling, we must accept diversity of celebrations on the Sunday after Ascension. I agree with your sentiment in favour of unity, particularly in a local Church.

  7. It seems unity of the local church is always on the cards so long as it is at the expense of traditionalists have fought hard to recover. What about unity with what the church has done since time immemorial? Do the bishops ever consider that?


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