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Ascension Thursday—21 May AD 2020
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Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English

 

Today, Ascension Thursday, is the fortieth day after Easter.  The number forty gets a lot of attention from authors who comment on the Bible and the Liturgy.  Some refer to it as a “perfect” number, while others call it “mystical.”  I have always disliked both terms, “perfect” and “mysical” when applied to numbers.  After all numbers simply specify quantities of things, and calling them “perfect” or “mysical” borders on calling them “magical.”  That seems more appropriate to someone rolling dice than to one commenting on the Gospels.  I think that when the number itself is significant, it is better to refer to it as ”appropriate” or “auspicious.”

1, 3, 7, 8, 40, and 50,  are all used by the Church in a manner that I would say makes them auspicious.  Let me explain what I mean:

There is but one God.  This is something we should know from early childhood.  Anyone who claims to have an alternative “god” is in violation of the First Commandment, and probably in violation of other Commandments as well, for the “commandments” of imaginary “gods” are usually nothing more than the justification of human greed and lust.  Psalm 95 tells us that the “gods of the Gentiles are devil's.”[1]  There is but one God.  One is an auspicious number.

Another thing we learn in childhood is that there are three Persons in one God.  This comes as early as learning to make the Sign of the Cross.  There is but one God, but this God exists in Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Ghost—all three we equally God.  Three  is an auspicious number.

As children we learn that there are seven days in a week. Later we may learn that these days are dedicated to Our Lord (Sunday), to the Holy Trinity (Monday),  to the Angels (Tuesday), Saint Joseph (Wednesday), to the Blessed Sacrament or the Holy Ghost (Thursday), to the Holy Cross (Friday), and to the Blessed Virgin Mary (Saturday).

In our early teens we learn that there are seven Sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Penance, Extreme Unction, Holy Orders, and Matrimony.

We may learn that there are seven steps to the priesthood:  Porter, Lector, Exorcist, Acolyte, Subdeacon, Deacon, and Priest.  Seven is an auspicious number.

Important feasts are celebrated with an Octave of eight days—the feast itself, and a full week following it.  If there are seven steps to the priesthood, becoming a bishop takes one more step, or eight in all—we might say that the episcopate is the "octave" of the priesthood. Eight is an auspicious number.

It rained on Noah for forty days and forty nights.[2].

Moses spent forty days and forty nights, fasting on the mountain with God.[3]

The Israelites wandered the desert forty years.[4]

Elias ate a hearth cake and a vessel of water and went forty days with no other food.[5]

Jesus fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards He was hungry."[6]

If you search the Douay Rheims Bible for “forty days,” you'll get more than 150 hits!  Forty is an auspicious number.  The word Pentecost occurs only a few times to describe a Jewish feast day that occurs fifty days after Easter.  Fifty is auspicious because Pentecost is the day on which the Holy Ghost descended upon the Apostles, giving them the ability to evangelize the crowds.  It was, in effect, the Birthday of the Church!

So, perhaps you now understand why I say that 1, 3, 7, 8, 40, and 50,  are auspicious but not mystical, not perfect.

But they are important.  One could describe today's feast day as being “extra auspicious,” because it follows the forty day Lenten fast that brought us up to Easter, and then another forty days of Eastertide.  Today we begin Ascension tide, another ten days to fill out the “week of weeks,” which fills out the fifty days between Easter an Pentecost.

So, let's resume this Mass which celebrates our Lord's Ascension into heaven—the ascension of the God—man, body and soul, into heaven—let us pray that we will find our eternal home with His—for today is, indeed, an auspicious day

 

 

 


Dei via est íntegra

 

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