I. The Events Recorded as Happening After the
Resurrection Were Intended to Convince Its Truth.
Since the blessed and glorious Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ,
whereby the Divine power in three days raised the true Temple of God, which
the wickedness of the Jews had overthrown, the sacred forty days, dearly-beloved
are to-day ended, which by most holy appointment were devoted to our most
profitable instruction, so that, during the period that the Lord thus protracted
the lingering of His bodily presence, our faith in the Resurrection might
be fortified by needful proofs. For Christ's Death had much disturbed the
disciples' hearts, and a kind of torpor of distrust had crept over their
grief-laden minds at His torture on the cross, at His giving up the ghost,
at His lifeless body's burial. For, when the holy women, as the Gospel-story
has revealed, brought word of tile stone rolled away from the tomb, the
sepulchre emptied of the body, and the angels bearing witness to the living
Lord, their words seemed like ravings to the Apostles and other disciples.
Which doubtfulness, the result of human weakness, the Spirit of Truth would
most assuredly not have permitted to exist in His own preacher's breasts,
had not their trembling anxiety and careful hesitation laid the foundations
of our faith. It was our perplexities and our dangers that were provided
for in the Apostles: it was ourselves who in these men were taught how
to meet the cavillings of the ungodly and the arguments of earthly wisdom.
We are instructed by their lookings, we are taught by their hearings, we
are convinced by their handlings. Let us give thanks to the Divine management
and the holy Fathers' necessary slowness of belief. Others doubted, that
we might not doubt.
II. And Therefore They are in the Highest Degree Instructive.
Those days, therefore, dearly-beloved, which intervened between the
Lord's Resurrection and Ascension did not pass by in uneventful leisure,
but great mysteries1 were ratified in them, deep truths2 revealed. In them
the fear of awful death was removed, and the immortality not only of the
soul but also of the flesh established. In them, through the Lord's breathing
upon them, the Holy Ghost is poured upon all the Apostles, and to the blessed
Apostle Peter beyond the rest the care of the Lord's flock is entrusted,
in addition to the keys of the kingdom. Then it was that the Lord joined
the two disciples as a companion on the way, and, to the sweeping away
of all the clouds of our uncertainty, upbraided them with the slowness
of their timorous hearts. Their enlightened hearts catch the flame of faith,
and lukewarm as they have been, are made to burn while the Lord unfolds
the Scriptures. In the breaking of bread also their eyes are opened as
they eat with Him: how far more blessed is the opening of their eyes, to
whom the glorification of their nature is revealed than that of our first
parents, on whom fell the disastrous consequences of their transgression.
III. The Prove the Resurrection of the Flesh.
And in the course of these and other miracles, when the disciples were
harassed by bewildering thoughts, and the Lord had appeared in their midst
and said, "Peace be unto you3 ," that what was passing through their hearts
might not be their fixed opinion (for they thought they saw a spirit not
flesh), He refutes their thoughts so discordant with the Truth, offers
to the doubters' eyes the marks of the cross that remained in His hands
and feet, and invites them to handle Him with careful scrutiny, because
the traces of the nails and spear had been retained to heal the wounds
of unbelieving hearts, so that not with wavering faith, but with most stedfast
knowledge they might comprehend that the Nature which had been lain in
the sepulchre was to sit on God the Father's throne.
IV. Christ's Ascension Has Given Us Greater Privileges
and Joys Than the Devil Had Taken from Us.
Accordingly, dearly-beloved, throughout this time which elapsed between
the Lord's Resurrection and Ascension, God's Providence had this in view,
to teach and impress upon both the eyes and hearts of His own people that
the Lord Jesus Christ might be acknowledged to have as truly risen, as
He was truly born, suffered, and died. And hence the most blessed Apostles
and all the disciples, who had been both bewildered at His death on the
cross and backward in believing His Resurrection, were so strengthened
by the clearness of the truth that when the Lord entered the heights of
heaven, not only were they affected with no sadness, but were even filled
with great joy. And truly great and unspeakable was their cause for joy,
when in the sight of the holy multitude, above the dignity of all heavenly
creatures, the Nature of mankind went up, to pass above the angels' ranks
and to rise beyond the archangels' heights, and to have Its uplifting limited
by no elevation until, received to sit with the Eternal Father, It should
be associated on the throne with His glory, to Whose Nature It was united
in the Son. Since then Christ's Ascension is our uplifting, and the hope
of the Body is raised, whither the glory of the Head has gone before, let
us exult, dearly-beloved, with worthy joy and delight in the loyal paying
of thanks. For to-day not only are we confirmed as possessors of paradise,
but have also in Christ penetrated the heights of heaven, and have gained
still greater things through Christ's unspeakable grace than we had lost
through the devil's malice. For us, whom our virulent enemy had driven
out from the bliss of our first abode, the Son of God has made members
of Himself and placed at the right hand of the Father, with Whom He lives
and reigns in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.