Why is the Ascension of Mary a Holy day but not the Ascension of Jesus?


Why is the Ascension of Mary a Holy Day of Obligation but the Ascension of Jesus is not? It’s our Savior’s Ascension into heaven just as, if not more important? I’m told that in some dioceses it is a Holy Day of Obligation which also raises another issue. It would seem that missing mass on that day either would or would not be a mortal sin. If you chose not to go to mass on that day, does God pull out a map to check which dioceses you live in? Forgive me for being so silly - but this makes no sense to this former Evangelical turned Catholic.


Dear Carol,

When one looks at the context here, one finds that it is not an arbitrary matter. First of all, we do not celebrate Mary’s ascension because she did not ascend. We celebrate her Assumption. She was assumed i.e., taken up to heaven by God. Jesus ascended, i.e., He arose by His own power because He is God. This is a big distinction.

Secondly, by moving the Solemnity of Christ’s Ascension to Sunday, we are not demoting it. All Sundays are days of obligation under pain of mortal sin. The reason for the move is based on a concern that it is easier for many working Catholics to attend Mass on this great feast. But if one should live in a diocese where the Ascension is still celebrated on Thursday, one is obliged under pain of mortal sin to attend Mass on that day—because such celebration, like Sunday’s celebration of the Resurrection, is so significant. If one cannot attend, there is no sin. But if one can, why would he or she stay away?

Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.

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