01 June 2006

The Proof of Faith is in the Lives of the Saints

As the Octave of the Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord winds to a close with II Vespers this evening, it seems fitting to be reminded of these words first preached by St Leo the Great. They are my recasting of this translation of St Leo's Sermon LXXIV, "On the Lord's Ascension."

On the fortieth day after the Resurrection in the presence of the disciples, was raised into heaven. On that day He terminated His presence with us in the body to abide on the Father's right hand. There He sits until He comes to judge the living and the dead in the same flesh in which He ascended. Yet He has not forsaken us. Instead, in His Ascension, our Redeemer’s body—which was visible and touchable during His stay on earth—was changed into a sacramental presence. Sight, then, gives way to taking to heart and obeying Our Lord’s teachings with the result that faith is made more excellent and stronger.

This Faith, increased by the Lord's Ascension and established by the gift of the Holy Ghost, is not terrified by bonds, imprisonments, banishments, hunger, fire, attacks by wild beasts, refined torments of cruel persecutors. Rather, in every age and in many places, not only men but also women, not only boys but also young girls, have fought, and continue to fight for this Faith, to the shedding of their blood. More so, this Faith casts out spirits, drives off sicknesses, and raises the dead.

The proof of this is in the lives of the saints—most especially the Holy Apostles. You will recall that, even though they had seen so many miracles performed by Our Lord and heard all of His teaching and had even acknowledge His authority, even still they were panic-stricken by the horrors of the Lord's Passion and had not accepted the truth of His resurrection without hesitation. Yet after Our Lord’s departure—after His Ascension and the descent of His Spirit—they progressed to the point that everything which had previously filled them with fear was turned into joy. In fact, they were not longer hindered by His absence. Instead, lifted the whole contemplation of their mind to the Godhead of Him who is seated at the Father's right hand. And so they confessed that the Son of God who had never left His Father’s side when He came down from heaven, is truly the Son of Man who did not forsake them when He ascended into heaven.

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