On Not Keeping Ascension Day

The title of this blog post is misleading. It is not so much that we are not keeping Ascension Day as that we are transferring the feast to Sunday, 20 May — and therein lies my sadness. Not keeping Ascension Day today means that we Catholics are out of step with the majority of other Christians in this country and, even more important in my view, are breaking the liturgical sequence of days, ignoring the number symbolism given by Scripture and Tradition. I am therefore on the horns of a dilemma. I bow to the decision of the bishops and will obediently celebrate the Ascension of the Lord on Sunday, but in my heart of hearts I know that today is the ‘real’ feast. While we sing today’s Divine Office according to the rubrics, the music of Ascensiontide is pulsing through my memory. I am that most unnatural of Benedictines, a liturgical crypto-rebel!

Does that matter? Perhaps not; but I think it does shed light on something we tend to ignore whenever we reform or change anything in the Church. We are creatures of habit; we like the familiar. It is hard to adapt to new ways of thinking and doing, even when they are improvements on what has gone before. That is why whenever anything needs to change, we ought to pray about it, to allow the grace of God into situations we may not recognize as needing grace. When we are ourselves involved in making changes, it is easy to forget how they will affect others, easy to be so convinced of the rightness of our views that we have no time or sympathy for those who think and feel differently.

I do not think I shall be lobbying the bishops to return Ascension Day to its proper date, nor shall I be absenting myself from the liturgy as though I knew better than others. Making a fuss is not my forte. I shall hold my peace and hope — oh how I hope! — that next year we may celebrate the feast when I believe it should be celebrated.

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Pausing for Breath

It is something I have to do more often these days when confronted with a flight of stairs or a steep slope (I have sarcoidosis, which means my lungs don’t work as well as they should). At first, I was irate. Why would my lungs no longer obey me? Why should I have to huff and puff and come to an ignominious stop every now and then? I found a dozen different ways of pretending I was stopping to admire something or other (a bit unconvincing half-way up a flight of office stairs). Finally I decided to be honest and just admit that I needed to pause for breath. Now I let people rush past or stare at me wondering whether to offer help and don’t feel embarrassed. Pausing for breath has taught me to take nothing for granted; to wonder at the simple act of breathing; to find joy in the ability of others to run and jump and do all the things I can’t. In an odd kind of way, I think pausing for breath has helped me grow up a little. What has helped you?

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