The Ascension of Our Lord occurred 40 days after Jesus Christ rose from the dead on Easter. It is the final act of our redemption that Christ began at His birth and continued through the Triduum. On this day, the risen Christ, in the sight of His apostles, ascended bodily into Heaven. The reality of Christ's Ascension is so important that the different Christian creeds all affirm, in the words of the Apostles' Creed; that "He ascended into heaven, sits at the right hand of God the Father almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead." The denial of the Ascension is as grave a departure from Christian teaching as is denial of Christ's Resurrection.
Christ's bodily Ascension foreshadows our own entrance into Heaven not simply as souls, after our death, but as glorified bodies, after the resurrection of the dead at the Final Judgment. In redeeming mankind, Christ not only offered salvation to our souls but began the restoration of the material world itself to the glory that God intended before Adam's fall.
The Feast of the Ascension marks the beginning of nine days of prayer before the descent of the Holy Spirit. Before His Ascension, Christ promised to send the Holy Spirit to His apostles. Their prayer for the coming of the Holy Spirit, which began on Ascension Thursday, ended with the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday, ten days later.
In the 1990s The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops began to look at moving the celebration to the following Sunday. Many countries had already done so in the 70s and 80s. Several reasons were given, the two most important being: 1) Ascension is so important to our Christian Faith; 2) celebrating it on Sunday meant more people would truly celebrate it.
This past Friday, May 31, Daniel Belken and Allen Kirchner were ordained to the Diaconate at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Cape Girardeau. They were ordained as transitional deacons and will be ordained to the priesthood after serving as deacons in a parish and with completion of all their studies this coming school year.
Deacons exercise various roles within the Roman Catholic Church. They are to proclaim the Gospel and may give the homily at Mass. They are extra ordinary ministers of Holy Communion. As ordained ministers, they may celebrate baptisms and marriages at the permission of the pastor. The deacon also assists the celebrant at the Eucharist.
The history of Deacons begins in the Acts of The Apostles. Seven men were chosen to assist the Apostles in ministering to Greek widows and orphans. They also took Holy Communion to the homebound and went into the prisons to visit the Christians condemned to death. The first Christian martyr was St. Stephen. He was one of the original seven deacons who was stoned to death for preaching the Gospel to the Jews and died at the feet of Saul (St. Paul).
As we celebrate Deacon Daniel and Deacon Allen’s ordinations, let us also keep all of our seminarians in prayer as they study, work, and discern if the Lord is calling them to minister as priests at the altar.