Heaven on Thursday

Ten years ago I was part of an international community in Rome, preparing for perpetual vows. And it was this month when I discovered that we Brits were liturgically out of step with most of the rest of the world, because I was the only one who expected to celebrate the Ascension on a Thursday! Italy, and the home countries of my sisters, had all switched the feast - and, as I later realised, Corpus Christi too - to the following Sunday.

It felt weird, but at least it prepared me for the weirdness to come when our own bishops followed suit a few years later. It's a weirdness that others feel too, as I discovered when we met for community prayer, and when I read the ibenedictines blog this morning. Forty days are not forty-three! Then a short while ago I read the reflections of an American RSCJ whose travels will mean two Ascensions this year (here); reflections which add a new layer of significance and insight to the mix.

Feast days, whether movable or not, do matter; they provide rhythm and can be anchors or milestones in our lives. Long after my mother had forgotten the actual anniversary date of her father's death, she would remember that he had died at Easter. I can still remember my father's anniversary, but also vividly recall that he died the morning after Ash Wednesday. And for RSCJ there's the fact that our foundress, St Madeleine Sophie Barat, died on Ascension Thursday, thus leading to one biography being titled Heaven on Thursday. It's a significant fact of her life - and death - and one of the ways we can remember her, even though Thursday is now liturgically transferred to Sunday.

So at community prayer we recalled Sophie and read the Gospel for the Ascension, which I will also hear on Sunday. And following on from yesterday's post about joy, it's good to have a Gospel which ends with the disciples being 'full of joy' even after Jesus has left them. This is truly the leavening joy I wrote about yesterday, which springs from the faith and love that make the risen Christ, though invisible, the very core of the disciple's existence! Heaven on earth, be it a Thursday or a Sunday!