Today, as everyone knows- or ought to know- is Ascension Day, but under current arrangements the feast is transferred to next Sunday. Unlike a number of other bloggers I am not going to slag off the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales over this. Not that I am happy with this mucking about with the holy days. Far from it. Nevertheless, I am aware that our bishops didn't jump to make this change. Like many other things it happened elsewhere earlier.
In the year of the Great Jubilee 2000 I took the family to Rome. On the return journey we stopped for a few days on the borders of Tuscany and Umbria. Ascension Day fell on 1st June and I had had the bright idea of going to mass in the church of San Francesco at Arezzo so that afterwards we might feast our eyes upon the Piero della Francesca fresco cycle of The Legend of the True Cross. Much to our surprise we found that only one mass seemed to fit with our visit and that was being celebrated not in the main church but in the chapter house. As soon as I saw the celebrant in red vestments I twigged what was afoot. The Italian Bishops' Conference had already transferred the feast to the following Sunday so that the mass we had arrived for was that of the feast of St Justin, martyr. Had we remained in Rome, no doubt, we would have been celebrating the Ascension. Had we been at home, at that time, the same would have been true.
This I remember quite clearly. I am less clear about my first memory of Communion in the hand but I have a strong suspicion that I saw that happening on the continent before it happened here.
I was slow to adopt the new practice which I did in, I think, Advent 1977, about the time that I discovered the Divine Office- there is, for me a connection. Yet before that I had been in France in 1973 and 1976 where I had observed people receiving in the hand. Only later, if I remember rightly, did this practice cross the channel.
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