Pope Leo the Great on Epiphany

Sunday, January 6, AD 2013



After celebrating but lately the day on which immaculate virginity brought forth the Saviour of mankind, the venerable feast of the Epiphany, dearly beloved, gives us continuance of joy, that the force of our exultation and the fervour of our faith may not grow cool, in the midst of neighbouring and kindred mysteries. For it concerns all men’s salvation, that the infancy of the Mediator between God and men was already manifested to the whole world, while He was still detained in the tiny town. For although He had chosen the Israelitish nation, and one family out of that nation, from whom to assume the nature of all mankind, yet He was unwilling that the early days of His birth should be concealed within the narrow limits of His mother’s home: but desired to be soon recognized by all, seeing that He deigned to be born for all. To three wise men, therefore, appeared a star of new splendour in the region of the East, which, being brighter and fairer than the other stars, might easily attract the eyes and minds of those that looked on it, so that at once that might be observed not to be meaningless, which had so unusual an appearance. He therefore who gave the sign, gave to the beholders understanding of it, and caused inquiry to be made about that, of which He had thus caused understanding, and after inquiry made, offered Himself to be found.

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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


Friday, January 6, AD 2012

Although I know, dearly-beloved, that you are fully aware of the purpose of to-day’s festival, and that the words of the Gospel have according to use unfolded it to you, yet that nothing may be omitted on our part, I shall venture to say on the subject what the Lord has put in my mouth: so that in our common joy the devotion of our hearts may be so much the more sincere as the reason of our keeping the feast is better understood. The providential Mercy of God, having determined to succour the perishing world in these latter times, fore-ordained the salvation of all nations in the Person of Christ; in order that, because all nations had long been turned aside from the worship of the true God by wicked error, and even God’s peculiar people Israel had well-nigh entirely fallen away from the enactments of the Law, now that all were shut up under sin, He might have mercy upon all.

For as justice was everywhere failing and the whole world was given over to vanity and wickedness, if the Divine Power had not deferred its judgment, the whole of mankind would have received the sentence of damnation. But wrath was changed to forgiveness, and, that the greatness of the Grace to be displayed might be the more conspicuous, it pleased God, to apply the mystery of remission to the abolishing of men’s sins at a time when. no one could boast of his own merits.

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