Feast of the Ascension
I. The Lord Jesus, the Only begotten of the Father, Co-eternal with His Parent, like Him Invisible, like Him Omnipotent, as God Equal to Him, became Man for us, as you know, and have received, and hold fast in faith; and though He took to Himself a human form, He did not give up the divine. Omnipotence was veiled; infirmity made manifest. He was born, as you have come to know, that we might be reborn. He died, that we might not die for ever. And straightaway, that is, on the third day, He rose again from the dead; assuring us that we too shall rise on the last day.
He showed Himself to His Disciples: that they might see him with their eyes, and touch Him with their hands; showing them what He had become, and that He had not put off what He always was. For forty days He spoke with them, as you have heard, going in and coming out, eating and drinking together with them; not now from need, but wholly from power, and making plain to them the true nature of His Body: mortal upon the cross, immortal from the grave.
II. This day then we are celebrating the Lord’s Ascension. Today there is also a festival proper to this church: the death of the founder of this Basilica of the holy Leontius. But it is fitting that the star be overshadowed by the sun. So let us, as we began, speak rather of the Lord. The good servant rejoices when his Lord is praised.
III. Belief in the Ascension and its Commemoration over all the earth.
On this day therefore, that is, the fortieth after His Resurrection, the Lord ascended into heaven. We have not seen, but we believe. They who beheld Him proclaimed what they saw, and they have filled the whole earth: There are no speeches nor languages where their voices are not heard. Their sound hath gone forth into all the earth: and their words unto the ends of the world (Ps. xviii. 4, 5). And so they have reached even unto us, and awakened us from sleep. And lo! this death is celebrated throughout the world. Continue reading
The Catechism of the Council of Trent explains why Christ ascended into Heaven:
First of all, He ascended because the glorious kingdom of the highest heavens, not the obscure abode of this earth, presented a suitable dwelling place for Him whose body, rising from the tomb, was clothed with the glory of immortality.
He ascended, however, not only to possess the throne of glory and the kingdom which He had merited by His blood, but also to attend to whatever regards our salvation.
Again, He ascended to prove thereby that His kingdom is not of this world. For the kingdoms of this world are earthly and transient, and are based upon wealth and the power of the flesh; but the kingdom of Christ is not, as the Jews expected, earthly, but spiritual and eternal. Its resources and riches, too, are spiritual, as He showed by placing His throne in the heavens, where they are counted richer and wealthier who seek most earnestly the things that are of God, according to these words of St. James: Hath not God chosen the poor in this world, rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which God hath promised to them that love him? Continue reading
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 .” Continue reading