Today, 40 days after Easter Sunday, is the Feast of the Ascension. For the first time in over a decade the Catholic Church here in the UK is celebrating the Feast on the day itself, Thursday. In recent years the Ascension has been celebrated the following weekend, on the 7th Sunday of Easter.
Some years, around this time, I feel the benefit of good habits adopted during Lent. I feel lighter and healthier, and feel that I’m managing my time better. The last of these factors is prompted by a post-Easter “Time Windfall” in the years when I have managed to get to mass every day between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. From Easter Monday onwards I have an extra hour in my day, no longer planning which service to go to, and how to get there.
These days, attending daily mass in London is more of a logistical challenge than it used to be. Until the late 1980s there were evening masses every weekday locally, either at the church on the High Road, or at a convent 10 minutes’ walk away. You could pop in on your way home from work. By the mid-1990s these daily services had stopped, but there were evening masses at most of the churches in town, 5.45pm at Our Lady St Gregory and the Assumption in Warwick Street, for example, or 6pm at St Patrick’s Soho Square. In the last 20 years these, and most other evening masses in Central London, have ended. There’s 5.30pm at Westminster Cathedral, which is slightly too early to get to from most of the places where I have worked, and 6pm at the Brompton Oratory, which has always been at least a 20-minute journey from anywhere that I have been based.
Until last year one of the local churches had either a 7am or 7pm mass every weekday (7am on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday; 7pm on Tuesday and Friday), so you could go at the start or end of your day. This year there were no 7am services but even without them I managed, one way or another, to attend mass every day during Lent. I also swam 4 or 5 times a week during the Lenten season, as recorded here. Since the end of April I have only been to the pool twice, and although in theory I have freed up an extra hour each day it doesn’t feel that way. There hasn’t been as much of an Easter Dividend as in previous years. I do not feel lighter and healthier or that my time is being managed better since Easter Sunday.
There is another symptom of this. I am finalizing fewer pieces on this Blog than at any time since 2016. There is a backlog of posts drafted, or published privately and not made public, things that I have been unable to finish. The absence of an “Easter Dividend” reminds me of the first time I gave up alcohol during Lent, back in the 1980s. A couple of guys I was at school with did the same thing. They had got into the habit of drinking most days, spending a lot of time and money at the pub, but they gave up booze for the full 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. After Easter I drank less than I had previously. I changed my habits. They, on the other hand, made up for lost time. Sometime in June they commented that they were drinking more, and more often, than they had before. Giving it up for a while had not changed things for the better. Now, over 30 years later, something similar has happened to me, not related to drinking, but in a more general way: not getting on with things in the way I had hoped to. I would like it to change. Now.