Ascension Thursday—21 May AD 2020
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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
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
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
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
Moses spent forty days and forty nights,
fasting on the mountain with God.
The Israelites wandered the desert forty years.
Elias ate a hearth cake and a vessel of water and went
forty days with no other food.
forty days and
nights, and afterwards
He was hungry."
search the Douay Rheims Bible for “forty
days,” you'll get more than 150 hits! Forty
is an auspicious number. The word
only a few times to describe a Jewish feast day that occurs
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
perhaps you now understand why I say that 1, 3, 7, 8, 40, and 50, are
auspicious but not mystical, not perfect.
they are important. One could describe today's feast day as being
“extra auspicious,” because it follows the
Lenten fast that brought us up to Easter, and then another
Eastertide. Today we begin Ascension tide, another ten days to fill out
the “week of weeks,” which fills out the
between Easter an Pentecost.
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