Today we celebrate the solemnity of the Ascension of Our Lord. Other parts of the world would have observed the occasion last Thursday, forty days after the resurrection, where most likely it would have been a Holy Day of Obligation. In certain parts of the western world in particular, where Ascension Thursday was not a Holy Day of Obligation, the celebration was transferred to the seventh Sunday of Easter to give more prominence to the
day which is a very important one. It commemorates the end of Jesus’ ministry on earth and the return to His Father. The theological meaning and significance of the Ascension is best explained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: Christ’s Ascension marks the definitive entrance of Jesus’ humanity into God’s heavenly domain whence He will come again. Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church precedes us into the Father’s glorious kingdom so that we, the members of His Body may live in the hope of one day being with him forever. Jesus Christ, having entered the sanctuary of heaven, intercedes constantly for us as the mediator who assures us of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
In His parting words to His disciples (and us Catholics) Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit “who will teach us everything”.
The descent of the Holy Spirit, (Pentecost) will be celebrated next Sunday, fifty days after Ascension Thursday. What did the apostles and disciples do between the Ascension and Pentecost? They went back from the Mount of Olives (from which Jesus ascended) to Jerusalem to the place where they were staying and together with Mary, the Mother of Jesus and the other women prayed together for nine days before the Holy Spirit appeared. (biblical reference; Acts of the Apostles, Ch.1;14) It is believed that this was the first
novena ever prayed. It is still customary in the modern day church to say a novena to the Holy Spirit, commencing on Friday after the Ascension and ending on the Saturday before Pentecost Sunday, during which we ask to receive the seven gifts and the twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit.