Anglican Down Under recently reflected on the Anglican and Roman trend of celebrating Ascension Sunday rather than Ascension Day, the forthieth day of Easter:
Why has Ascension Day been downgraded in importance? Is it because we have
focused on the event of Ascension Day, Jesus' final words prior to lift off, and
determined that event is not so significant to warrant a mid-week celebration?
If, by contrast, we focus on the significance of the Ascension of Jesus, we have
something to celebrate of greater, if not infinite magnitude.
This 'downgrading' of Ascension Day also has another significant aspect. At the Catholic Herald, Fr. Alexander Lucie-Smith notes how removing Ascension from the forthieth day of Easter to the more convenient Sunday following, colludes with "the disappearance of sacred time". This rupturing of sacred time results in the Paschal Season not fully reflecting the Scriptural narrative - the forty days with the Risen Christ, the Ascension, the nine days of prayer with the Blessed Virgin and the apostles, then the descent of the Holy Spirit.
It is not, after all, the case that Anglican liturgy does not provide an Ascension-tide theme for the Sunday after the Ascension. The classical collect for the Sunday - used in many contemporary Anglican liturgies - has explicit reference to the Ascension:
you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ
with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven ...
Alongside this, much contemporary provision also echoes 1662 in providing for the proper preface of Ascension to be used for "seven days after". In other words, maintaining the rhythm of sacred time and the integrity of the Paschal Season by celebrating the Ascension on the fortieth day, the Thursday, does not mean that those who do not share in the Eucharist on the Thursday forego celebrating the significance of the Ascension in salvation history.
Liturgical time is a means for the Church to be counter-cultural, to proclaim that the rhythms of Market and State, leisure and commerce, do not shape our time. By gathering to celebrate the Eucharist on the forthieth day of Easter, we proclaim that our time is shaped by the Crucified, Risen and Ascended Lord.