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Ascension Thursday
Question from Dan Hunter on 5/1/2007:

Dear Father Trigilio, I have called a number of churches in the Diocese of Raleigh NC inquiring what time the Holy Day of Obligation Ascension Thursday Mass is offered. They all informed me that this Holy Day has been,and I quote,"Transferred to the Fifth Sunday after Easter". Did Christ ascend to Heaven forty days after His Resurection or forty three days after His Resurection? What is the reasoning behind,"Transferring" an Holy Day of Obligation?We still,under pain of mortal sin must assist at the Holy Sacrifice of Mass on every Sunday anyhow. Is this just some kind of a copout on the part of the bishops,who use the lame excuse that Thursday Mass would inconvienance people and music directors? Or is there a Holy theological reason to transferring a Holy Day?A reason that would please our Divine Lord.It just seems that we place so much emphasis on worldly matters and not enough on Christ.After all it is only one extra hour in the week dedicated to the Sacrifice,Is this, now,to hard for us to bear?Look what Christ did for us. Thank you in advance for your answer and God bless you.

Answer by Fr. John Trigilio on 5/15/2007:

Since establishing Holy Days of Obligation is a Church Law and not Divine Law or Natural Law, the Church can amend, dispense or abolish any laws she herself creates. She cannot do that with Divine or Natural Law, however.

Holy Days of Obligation, like Christmas, New Years, Epiphany, Saint Joseph, Ascension, Corpus Christi, SS. Peter and Paul, Assumption, All Saints and Immaculate Conception. Of these ten listed in canon law, the USA was dispensed from three of them, hence, Epiphany is celebrated on the Sunday after New Years whereas in Italy is always celebrated on January 6th. Likewise, Rome allowed each nation and episcopal conference to request that regions be dispense as well, if they petition Rome. 40 Days after Easter is still Ascension Thursday for me and my diocese of Harrisburg, PA, but in Birmingham, AL, the solemnity has been transfered to the nearest Sunday.

Canon Law allows you to observe the laws of the place you are in, hence, when I am at EWTN, Ascension Thursday is celebrated on Sunday while if I am home or visiting Father Brighenti in New Jersey, Ascension Thursday falls on the fortieth day and it is a day of OBLIGATION.

Man mande and ecclesiastical laws can and do change. Divine Law and Natural Law never change and cannot be changed.


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