On the Ascension

«In his humanity, he brought humanity with him into the depths of the Father»

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 21, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Sunday before and after praying the midday Regina Caeli with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

According to the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, 40 days after the Resurrection Jesus ascended into heaven, that is, he returned to the Father, by whom he had been sent into the world. In many countries this mystery is not celebrated on Thursday but today, the Sunday that follows. The Ascension of the Lord marks the completion of the salvation that began with the Incarnation. After having instructed his disciples, Jesus ascended into heaven (cf. Mark 16:19). However, he “did not separate himself from our condition” (cf. Preface); in fact, in his humanity, he brought humanity with him into the depths of the Father and thus revealed the final destination of our earthly pilgrimage. Just as he descended from heaven for us, and suffered and died for us on the cross, so too he rose from the dead and ascended to God for us. And so God is no longer distant but is “our God,” “our Father,” (cf. John 20:17).

The ascension is the last act of our liberation from sin; as St. Paul writes: “he ascended on high and took prisoners captive” (Ephesians 4:8). St. Leo the Great Explains that with this mystery “not only is there proclaimed the immortality of the soul, but also that of the flesh. Today, in fact, we are not only confirmed as possessors of paradise, but we have with Christ penetrated the heights of heaven” (De Ascensione Domini, Tractatus 73, 2.4: CCL 138 A, 451.453). This is why, when the disciples saw the Master lifted up from the earth and carried on high, they were not seized by discouragement, indeed, they experienced a great joy and felt driven to proclaim Christ’s victory over death (cf. Mark 16:20). And the risen Lord worked with them, distributing to each a particular charism, so that the whole Christian community might reflect the harmonious richness of the heavens. St. Paul continues: “he gave gifts to men … he gave some as apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers … for building up the body of Christ …. to the extent of the full stature of Christ” (Ephesians 4:8, 11-13).

Dear friends, the Ascension tells us that in Christ our humanity is raised to the heights of God; thus every time we pray, earth joins heaven. And like the smoke of burning incense lifts high its sweet odor, when we then raise up to the Lord our fervent and confident prayer in Christ, it passes through the heavens and reaches the Throne of God it is heard and answered by God. In the celebrated work by St. John of the Cross, “The Ascent of Mount Carmel,” we read that “to see the desires of our heart realized, there is no better way than to direct the energy of our prayer to the thing that most pleases God. For then not only will he give that which we ask of Him, which is salvation, but also that which he sees to be fitting and good for us, although we pray not for it” (Book III, ch. 4, 2).

We supplicate the Virgin Mary, that she help us to contemplate the heavenly goods that the Lord has promised us and to become ever more credible witnesses of the divine life.

[Following the Regina Caeli the Holy Father addressed those present in St. Peter’s Square in various languages. In Italian he said:]

Dear brothers and sisters,

Today we observe the World Day of Social Communications, whose theme this year is “Silence and Word: Path of Evangelization.” I invite all to pray that communication, in all of its forms, always serve to establish authentic dialogue with our neighbor based on mutual respect, listening and sharing. Silence is an integral part of communication, it is a privileged place for the encounter with the Word of God and our brothers and sisters.

Thursday, May 24 is a day dedicated to the liturgical memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary Help of Christians, venerated with great devotion at the shrine of Sheshan in Shanghai. Let us join in prayer with all of the Catholics of China that they might proclaim Christ dead and risen with humility and joy, that they be faithful to his Church and to the Successor of Peter and live their everyday lives in a way that is consistent with the faith that they profess. May Mary, faithful Virgin, sustain Chinese Catholics on their journey, make their prayer ever more intense and precious in the eyes of the Lord, and make the universal Church’s affection for the Church in China grow along with her participation in her path.

I address a cordial greeting to the thousands of members of the Italian Movement for Life, who are gathered in Paul VI Hall. Dear friends, your movement has always been engaged in defending human life in accordance with the teachings of the Church. Along these lines you have announced a new initiative called “One of Us,” to support the dignity and rights of every human being from the moment of conception. I encourage and exhort you always to be witnesses and builders of the culture of life.

[In English he said:]

I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors here today. Jesus tells us in the Gospel that he has come so that his joy may be fulfilled in us. Let us ask the Virgin Mary to obtain for us a deeper faith in her Son, so that we may live to the full the spiritual joy which he wills for us. Upon all of you I invoke God’s abundant blessings.

[In Italian he said:]

I greet the various school groups, and unfortunately today I must recall the young people of the school in Brindisi who were affected by yesterday’s vile attack. Let us pray together for those who were injured, some gravely, and especially for the young woman Melissa, the innocent victim of a brutal act of violence, and for her family, who are grieving. My affectionate thoughts also go out to the dear people of Emilia Romagna who were struck a few hours ago by an earthquake. I am spiritually near to the persons who have been tried in these calamities: let us implore God for mercy on those who have died and relief from suffering from those who were injured.

I wish everyone a good Sunday.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]
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