A matter of present delight

Daily Reading for May 21 • Ascension Day

As the Resurrection of the Lord was a cause of rejoicing for us in the Paschal liturgy, so his Ascension into heaven is a matter of present delight for us. We recall and rightly venerate that day when our lowly nature was carried in Christ above all the hosts of heaven, over all the angelic orders and beyond the height of all powers, to the seat of God the Father. We have been established, we have been built in this order of divine works, that the grace of God becomes the more wonderful when those things which are felt to invite proper reverence are removed from the sight of human beings and still faith does not weaken, hope does not waver, love does not grow cold.

This is the strength of great souls, and it is the light of intensely faithful spirits to believe unhesitatingly what is not seen by bodily perception, and to fix their desire where they cannot fix their sight. From where would this devotion be born in our hearts; or how would anyone be “justified through faith” if our salvation consisted only in those things that lie under our eyes? . . .

So then, that we can be fit for this blessedness, dearly beloved, after all had been fulfilled that belonged to the preaching of the Gospel and the mysteries of the New Testament, our Lord Jesus Christ was raised to heaven. He made an end to his bodily presence in the sight of his disciples on the fortieth day after the Resurrection. . . . What was to be seen of our Redeemer has passed over into the Sacraments. In order that faith might be more perfect and more firm, teaching has taken the place of sight, and to this authority the hearts of believers, illumined by heavenly rays, have conformed.

From Sermon 74 (17 May 445) of Leo the Great, quoted in The Fathers of the Church: St. Leo the Great, Sermons, translated by Jane Patricia Freeland, C.S.J.B. and Agnes Josephine Conway, S.S.J. (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1996).

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