THE ASCENSION – SERMON OF ST LEO, POPE
After the blessed and glorious resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, wherein he raised up in three days that true temple of God, which had been destroyed by the ungodly Jews, there is this present day fulfilled, dearly beloved; that completed number of forty holy days, which had been ordained by a most sacred dispensation, and devoted to giving us valuable instructions: so that, while the Lord permitted his bodily presence to tarry among us for this space of time, our faith in his resurrection might be strengthened by necessary proofs.
For the death of Christ had greatly disturbed the hearts of the disciples, and a certain lethargy of disbelief had crept over their grief-laden minds at his torture on the Cross, at his giving up of the spirit, at the burial of his lifeless body.
The death of Christ had greatly disturbed the hearts of the disciples
Thus the most blessed apostles and all the disciples who had been full of fear at the death of the Cross, and uncertain in faith concerning the resurrection, were so strengthened by the clear vision of the Truth, that, when the Lord was going up into the heights of heaven, they were not troubled by any sadness, but rather were filled with great joy. And, in truth, it was a great and unspeakable cause for rejoicing, when in the sight of a holy multitude, human nature ascended above the dignity of all celestial creatures, to pass above the ranks of the angels, to be raised beyond the heights of the archangels, and not to have any degree of loftiness set a limit to its advancement, short of the right hand of the eternal Father, where it would be associated with his royal glory, to whose nature it was united in the Son.
Christ’s ascension is our own exaltation
Since, then, Christ’s ascension is our own exaltation, and where the glory of the head has gone before, there also is the hope of the body summoned.
Let us, dearly beloved, rejoice with due rejoicing and be glad, devoutly giving thanks. For today, not only have we been confirmed in the possession of Paradise, but in Christ we have penetrated even the height of heaven, having gained, through the ineffable grace of Christ, far more than we have lost through the malice of the devil. For those whom that venomous enemy cast down from the happiness of their first estate, these have the Son of God made to be one body with himself, and placed at the right hand of the Father, with whom he lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God through all eternity. Amen.
– From: An Approved English Translation of the Breviarium Romanum, Burns & Oates, London, 1964