"'Turing toward the Lord' is the translation of a phrase St. Augustine often used when he had finished his sermon and was beginning the Eucharistic liturgy. While reading the Scriptures and preaching, Agustine and the lectors faced the congregation; afterwards he, the assisting ministers, and the faithful turned toward the Lord, all facing in the same direction during" the Liturgy of the Eucharist. -from Fr. U.M Lang's book, "Turning Towards The Lord"
Since the transfer of what's traditionally been called "Ascension Thursday" to Sunday its been a bit confusing as to how to celebrate this solemnity.
Many of you already know that, in some areas of the United States, bishops have decided to transfer "Ascension Thursday" to the Sunday immediately following. So, for example, in the ecclesiastical Province of Michigan -- a province includes those dioceses that are attached to a Metropolitan bishop, a.k.a. the "Archbishop" -- the bishops have decided that the Solemnity of the Ascension will be transferred to Sunday. So, we no longer celebrate the Ascension this Thursday because it is transferred to Sunday.
The bishops have given various reasons for this, but the most common one is because of the low numbers of people who attended Mass on Ascension Thursday. Also, it was said that it was sometimes harder to put together adequate resources to celebrate this feast with its due solemnity in the middle of the work week -- music, food, etc. The bishops thought it would make for a better celebration if we could do it on Sunday when people could attend more easily and bring together more resources to really celebrate the day. Personally, I think it's great to really celebrate the Ascension on Sunday when more resources can be given to it. Yet, I think the reality in most parishes is that the Ascension tends to become 'one more Sunday' among the others, just with different music. Moving the Ascension to Sunday gives into the secular culture of our day that would have us keep God confined to Sunday and leave the rest of the week to the world.
That being said, the Catholic Church (i.e. the Church throughout the world) continues to celebrate this Solemnity of the Ascension on the universal calendar on the 40th day of Easter...i.e. this Thursday, during the 6th Week of Easter. For example, if you were in Rome you would be celebrating the Ascension today, Thursday. So, although we will not liturgically be celebrating today as the Ascension of the Lord, I still like to make a personal remembrance of Thursday as the Ascension BECAUSE it is the biblical way: it was on this 40th day of Easter that our Lord ascended to the Father and on the following day (i.e. Friday), that the Apostles began to wait for nine days in the upper room for the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday.
This is not a fundamentalist way of reading the Scriptures, but a liturgical way of reading and living the Scriptures. That is, the Acts of the Apostles is written with this chronology of 40 days + 9 days to help us to see the fulfillment of the Lord Jesus' mission in the light of these two traditional Jewish pilgrimage feasts of Passover and Pentecost. Whereas in Passover the the Lord's saving Presence is celebrated in His death and resurrection; in Pentecost the Lord's Presence in His life-giving New Covenant Presence (the Person of the Holy Spirit) is celebrated. This nine-day novena, from the Ascension to Pentecost, is instituted by the Lord Jesus Himself and is a great way to annually celebrate and renew His New Covenant fulfillment.
Practically, that can mean that the family might begin to pray a Novena (a nine-day prayer) to God for an outpouring of the gifts of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday. This can be confusing for adults and kids, but people often celebrate a holiday (like Christmas) when family members can get together rather than only celebrating it on the specific calendar day. So, the way I like to see it is that the local church may get together on Sunday to celebrate Ascension Thursday because of practical reasons of difficulty gathering the whole family together, but we still celebrate the Ascension in our own particular family on the day it falls chronologically, i.e. Thursday.
So, whether you liturgically celebrate the Ascension on Thursday or Sunday, celebrate with the Universal Church on Thursday and count down the next nine days with prayer for a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday. Come Holy Spirit, Come!
We have come to believe in God's love: in these words the Christian can express the fundamental decision of his life. Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.
I am a Campus Minister at the St. Mary's University Parish at Central Michigan University. I am in the process of finishing an MA in Biblical Theology from the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio.