Sunday, March 23, 2008

21. Ascension Church

(mass times & church info last updated 03/07/2016) 
Address: 221 W. 107th St. (Between Broadway & Amsterdam)
Phone: 212.222.0666
Weekend Mass Times:
Sat: 5pm (English), 6:15pm (Spanish)
Sunday: 8:15am (English), 9:30am (Spanish Walkirios), 11am (English/Choir), 12:30pm (Spanish Coro Hispano), 6pm (English/Jazz)
Weekday Mass Times:
Mon-Fri: 12pm (English), 7pm (Spanish)
Wed: 6pm (English)
Sat: 12:10pn (Spanish)
Sat: 4pm-5pm (bilingual)
Friday: 8:30am-7pm (Exposition)
Official Website
About the Organ
NY Times Article 1996


Fr. Duffel beginning the Palm Sunday service on the front steps of the church.


"This is my [prayer], O God of all the nations, a prayer of peace for lands afar and mine. This is my home, the country where my heart is; here are my hopes my dreams my holy shrine; But other hearts in other lands are beating with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.

My country's skies are bluer than the ocean, and sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine; But other lands have sunlight too, and clover, and skies are everywhere as blue as mine. O hear my prayer, thou God of all the Nations, a prayer of peace for their land and for mine."

This is My Song, by Stone and Sibelius, a song sung every week at this church.

This is just one small remarkable facet of the services and human interaction as well as global mindset that this church community and parish offers a New York Catholic, young or old, Spanish or English speaking, troubled or not...

I had planned on attending St. Paul's chapel at Columbia - but finding it closed I resorted to this church, I believe my favorite in the whole city. Fr. Duffel, the attending priest is always sharp and brilliant in his sermons and you can see reflected in this church and it's community, his open perspective, spiritual insight and great big heart and welcoming demeanor.

The Palm Sunday service began outside. The Sunday evening 6pm service is a Jazz mass and though the hymns sung are familiar, there is a new spin to them to hear them like this. I don't necessarily like the jazz compared to the elegance of some of these churches organs or magnificent choirs, but there's something quite gratifying in this music and the community that it seems to bring together each week.

This church is tucked away between Broadway and Amsterdam on 107th Street - and it's truly a gem in the great Catholicness of this city. There is the typical amount of weekday services in English and Spanish that one would expect to find.

Rembrandt's "Return of the Prodigal Son" near the altar...


There is also a special Wednesday evening weekly mass at 6pm in English that offers the Novena prayer to Our Lady...

These Wednesday services have anywhere from 5 to 20 people in the congregation and there are two hymns sang at the offertory and close of Mass that I find exceptional. They are praises to Mary and there is something quite Southern about them. The fact that it's typically one or two high or deep voices struggling to bring the rest of the mid-week weary along make them all the greater hymns, not in spite of the struggle but because of it.

Mary Immaculate, Star of the Morning:

Mary Immaculate, star of the morning.
Chosen before the creation began,
Destined to bring, through the light of Your dawning,
Conquest of satan and rescue to man.

Bend from your throne at the voice of our crying.
Look to this earth where Your footsteps have trod.
Stretch out Your arms to us, living and dying.
Mary Immaculate, Mother of God.

We sinners honor Your sinless perfection.
Fallen and weak, for God's mercy we plead.
Grant us the shield of Your mighty protection.
Measure Your aid by the depth of our need.

Bend from your throne at the voice of our crying.
Look to this earth where Your footsteps have trod.
Stretch out Your arms to us, living and dying.
Mary Immaculate, Mother of God.

Mother of Christ:

Mother of Christ, Mother of Christ,
What shall I ask of Thee?
I do not sigh for the wealth of earth,
For the joys that fade and flee,
But, Mother of Christ, Mother of Christ,
This do I long to see,
The bliss untold which Your Arms enfold,
The treasure upon Your Knee

Mother of Christ, Mother of Christ,
I toss on a stormy sea.
O lift Your Child as a beacon light,
To the port where I fain would be,
And, Mother of Christ, Mother of Christ
This do I ask of Thee,
When the voyage is o'er, O stand on the shore,
And show Him at last to me.


Holy Thursday service is my favorite mass of the year. Everything from the focus on the Eucharist to the latin at the end of the service is beautiful and sweet and sacred and intimate.

Ascension church offers all this within a bilingual service. Though I have to admit to not arriving early and therefore having to stand in the back due to the crowd throughout the service and at times becoming annoyed because of this and even impatient with the dual language structure of the event, I understand how great it is that this church offers it and that it's possible for me to even stand in the back, crammed between hispanic men and women and their grandchildren.

Holy Thursday is an amazing service and during one can almost think it's a typical service. Then comes the moment, right after Communion, that your realize something else entirely is about to go on. The lights begin dimming, or shutting off one after another - the priest begins down the aisle holding the Eucharist, incense burning then the Latin singing begins and you are suddenly aware you are in the presence of something big, something grand and immense that's bigger than you, bigger even then the church you are standing in - and depending where you are, that church can be pretty big.

Ascension Church also let the church doors open until 12 midnight this evening, as those who wished, could come and spend some quiet time with the Lord.


Today during the 3pm Good Friday Service I began feeling nearly "churched" out. Last night's bilingual service mixed with this morning's prayer had me kind of exhausted. Then, during the veneration of the cross, something came over me, something turned me so suddenly emotional - I was all caught up in the march of the cross to the altar symbolizing Christ's walk to Golgatha and His sacrifice for us and I was humbled at the simple fact that all we can do is kneel in front of a cross and kiss it's base.

I also joined the Spanish Stations of the Cross procession around the neighborhood from 6:45pm-8:00pm. The singing as we walked in between stations was quite stirring and though I did not understand the language being spoken, I kind of zoned out and meditated throughout the entire walk.

It was good.


The 37 Catechumens at the Easter service.

Well, I did it. I decided to go to the long Easter vigil service. I have to admit that at first, in the dark, reading after reading, I was growing a little tired and wondering what I was doing there - then, there came a moment during the Mass, right after Fr. Duffel baptized a young girl and proceeded to process throughout the church blessing the rest of the congregation, shaking Holy Water on us, there was a Mexican hymn being sung - of course an uproarious, energizing tune - and the Spanish priest on the altar began dancing and it hit me suddenly - there is no need for the sadness, no reason for that cloud hanging over in the light of all we really do have down here and can accomplish and strive for.

There is no darkness in this light.
- - -
additional photos...
(They have renovated the wall behind the altar, revealing the original art and it is beautiful. Compare this photo with the ones above and you will see...)

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad you liked Ascension. It's been my parish for the past few years and I was married there last October. I like the jazz service, but I try to get to the 11:00 Mass when I can. The choir, organ, and liturgy are all great.