Inrnthe Catholic Church in the United States, Ascension is celebrated on the seventhrnSunday of Easter. The Gospel on this solemnity begins with Jesus’ words: “Gorninto the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.”
Thisrnimperative is often referred to as the Great Commission. The entire spirit ofrnthe liturgy on this day should reflect the joy of that mission. The gospel messagernis for all people, everywhere!
Howrndo we prepare liturgically for the feast of the Ascension? Consider theserndetails:
¬∑ As part of the Easterrnseason, a Sprinkling Rite may be used in place of the Penitential Rite.
¬∑ There are two optionsrnfor the second reading. The pastor and parish liturgy committee decide which willrnbe proclaimed, and communicate their choice to the lectors so they can prepare.
¬∑ The first EucharisticrnPrayer Preface for this feast says we are “overcome with paschal joy.” Presidersrnand parish liturgical ministers alike need to let this celebration overflowrnwith that joy.
¬∑ The responsorial psalmrnspeaks of shouts of joy, trumpet blasts and clapping hands. In today’s liturgy,rnshouts of joy are translated as exuberant song. The opening song should be veryrnfamiliar to the assembly, eliciting a strong and joyful sound. If your assemblyrnis so inclined, include clapping during the song and a trumpet as part of the songrnaccompaniment, and with the acclamations (Gospel Alleluia, Holy, Holy,rnEucharistic Acclamation and Great Amen).
¬∑ Be sure to make thernsolemn blessing for this day a part of the closing rites.
Thernfollowing week is Pentecost Sunday, the 50th and final day of thernEaster season. To mark this feast, we have the option of celebrating anrnextended vigil at the Saturday evening Mass. This option provides four OldrnTestament readings, responsorial psalms and prayers after the readings.
Reading 1 — the Genesis story ofrnthe tower of Babel, with Psalm 33: Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to bernhis own.
Reading 2 — the story of God’srncovenant with Moses and the Israelites at Mt. Sinai, with the responsorial asrnthe canticle of Daniel: Blessed are you, O Lord (or Psalm 19: Lord, you havernthe words of everlasting life).
Reading 3 — Ezekiel and thernvision of the dry bones brought to life, with Psalm 107: Give thanks to thernLord; his love is everlasting.
Reading 4 — the prophet Joel’srnvision of the day of the Lord, and the assurance that those who call upon thernLord will be saved, with Psalm 104: Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew thernface of the earth.
Thernepistle is Paul’s letter to the Romans, with its reminder of the hope to whichrnwe are called.
Thernbrief Gospel is from John, in which Jesus declares that all who believe willrnsoon receive the gift of his spirit to help them carry on the covenant.
Celebratingrnthis extended vigil provides an appropriate arc with the Easter Vigil werncelebrated 50 days earlier, and it serves as a wonderful bookend to hold all ofrnthis year’s Easter season celebrations in our memory. If your parish does notrnchoose to include the extended Vigil for Pentecost, the simple or regular vigilrnis used.
Atrnall the Pentecost Sunday Masses, consider these details:
¬∑ To draw forth more consciousrnand active participation, and provide a visible spirit of oneness, somernparishes invite all members of the assembly to wear an item of red clothing,rnthe liturgical color for the day.
¬∑ A sprinkling rite canrnreplace the penitential rite as an expression of Easter joy.
¬∑ The required sequence/hymnrnof Pentecost is sung (Come, Holy Spirit), after the second reading and beforernthe Gospel Acclamation.
¬∑ The Universal Prayer canrninclude intercessions attentive to the message of the readings.
¬∑ A special EucharisticrnPrayer preface is provided for this day.
¬∑ There is a solemnrnblessing for Pentecost.
¬∑ Pentecost is also thernfinal day for the singing of the extended Alleluia dismissal: “Go in the peacernof Christ. Alleluia! Alleluia! Thanks be to God. Alleluia! Alleluia!
¬∑ On this day, the paschalrncandle, which has been burning brightly throughout the Easter season, isrnextinguished. Some parishes choose to have the deacon carry the candle out inrnthe closing, emphasizing the end of the season. At all other times of the year,rnthe candle is generally kept near the baptismal font, and lit for baptisms andrnfunerals.
¬∑ This day should bernfilled with beautiful songs of the Holy Spirit, of which we have many in ourrncommon repertoire.
“Come,rnHoly Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in them the fire ofrnyour love.”