Pope Leo The Great on the Ascension

Sunday, May 20, AD 2012

I. The Ascension completes our faith in Him, who was God as well as man

The mystery of our salvation, dearly-beloved, which the Creator of the universe valued at the price of His blood, has now been carried out under conditions of humiliation from the day of His bodily birth to the end of His Passion. And although even in “the form of a slave” many signs of Divinity have beamed out, yet the events of all that period served particularly to show the reality of His assumed Manhood. But after the Passion, when the chains of death were broken, which had exposed its own strength by attacking Him, Who was ignorant of sin, weakness was turned into power, mortality into eternity, contumely into glory, which the Lord Jesus Christ showed by many clear proofs in the sight of many, until He carried even into heaven the triumphant victory which He had won over the dead. As therefore at the Eastern commemoration, the Lord’s Resurrection was the cause of our rejoicing; so the subject of our present gladness is His Ascension, as we commemorate and duly venerate that day on which the Nature of our humility in Christ was raised above all the host of heaven, over all the ranks of angels, beyond the height of all powers, to sit with God the Father. On which Providential order of events we are founded and built up, that God’s Grace might become more wondrous, when, notwithstanding the removal from men’s sight of what was rightly felt to command their awe, faith did not fail, hope did not waver, love did not grow cold. For it is the strength of great minds and the light of firmly-faithful souls, unhesitatingly to believe what is not seen with the bodily sight, and there to fix one’s affections whither you cannot direct your gaze. And whence should this Godliness spring up in our hearts, or how should a man be justified by faith, if our salvation rested on those things only which lie beneath our eyes? Hence our Lord said to him who seemed to doubt of Christ’s Resurrection, until he had tested by sight and touch the traces of His Passion in His very Flesh, “because you have seen Me, you have believed: blessed are they who have not seen and yet have believed John 20:29 .”

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7 Responses to Pope Leo The Great on the Ascension

  • A sadly neglected feast. In many places it is not even a Holiday of Obligation.

    It is a Holiday of Obligation in Scotland, but not in England & Wales

    In France, it is a public holiday, as well as a Holiday of Obligation and there are many traditional fairs, markets and other celebrations associated with it.

  • I agree Michael.
    Here, it is, as kids would say, “lame” to celebrate it on Sunday.

    We were able to celebrate it Thursday because we live right across the border from a diocese that still celebrates it on the 40th day.
    When told that dioceses changed this for convenience, to appeal to more people, one person asked why didn’t they change Holy Thursday?
    The importance of symbolism in the Holy Scripture and the importance of 40 and other numbers in the Scriptures is apparently forgotten or at reckoned of less importance.

    When our liturgical calendar suffers (one of the big issues at Trent) we suffer because, like the Scriptures themselves the liturgy is living and active communication of the Word. Lex orandi, lex credendi — by lex viviendi

  • Tremunt videntes angeli versam vicem mortalium: culpat caro, purgat caro, regnat caro Verbum Dei. (From the Ambrosian Lauds hymn sung from Ascension to Pentecost).

    Our (redeemed) humanity ascends with Christ and we are placed above the angels; hence their trembling at seeing the lot of mortals so changed. An awesome feast, and quite rightly a Holiday of Obligation. Shunting it to the nearest Sunday shows how theologically impoverished our bishops are. Shame on them.

  • I think the picture for the music makes Christ look much differently from what I had always pictured him as. I think that the Ascension is in part is Christ saying “I told you I was the son of god”

  • Anzlyne

    You mention Holy Thursday – Did you know that, in the UK, Ascension Day is commonly referred to as “Holy Thursday”; whilst the Thursday of Holy Week is called “Maundy Thursday,” derived from “mandatum” [commandment] as in “mandatum novum do vobis,” a new commandment I give you…”

  • 2 points
    1 This post and Michael’s comment about the connection between Maundy and Mandatum point out to me the importance of remembering correctly and of correctly using words. It seems we are all, in John Nolan.s words ‘theologically impoverished”
    That is why the new translation of the Mass is so important and (related) why B16’s concerns about historical criticism should be taken seriously.
    In chinese history there was a time known as the “Rectification of Names” -which sounds like a good idea!

    2 The liturgy ( which includes the celebration of feast days like the Ascension) is the major part of how we ourselves are continually evangelized and educated in our faith.
    Pope Leo I’s comments above start from the simple literal sense of the Scripture and Tradition concerning Ascension. From that simple point, he goes on to the eschatological and moral lessons for us all. What a teacher! His study of the Ascension leads us to that “better instructed” faith he mentioned.

  • Oh, thank you, Donald for this wonderful Post. The Music is simply Angelic……Sorry, I was off my Laptop for some time…..Eucharistic Apostolate of the Divine Mercy does take us out of the City into the Rural Parishes to spread the Message of Mercy…….Oh, how I miss the pomp and joy of Celebrating the Ascension of our Lord on Thursday. In my youth, this Thursday was a Day of Obligation. In my Secondary School days, it was the most joyous Feast in the Consolata and Loreto Sisters’ Convent Schools for us. Oh, well, no matter…..even if we now celebrate it on the following Sunday, it is still the Glorious Ascension of our Beloved Lord and Master, so that we can receive His Gift of the Holy Spirit on the Tenth Day. To make up for what we lost, I decided to be praying the Divine Office during these Liturgical Seasons