"He took the very local possession of glory": Hooker on the Ascension

When thou hadst overcome the sharpness of death: thou didst open the kingdom of heaven to all believers - from the Te Deum, at Mattins.

In Book V.45 of the Lawes, Hooker reflects on these words from the Te Deum and in doing so provides a superb account of this celebration in the daily office of the salvific significance of the Ascension:

As Christ hath purchased that heavenly kingdom that perfection whereof is glory in the life to come, grace in this life is a preparation thereunto; so the same he hath 'opened' to the word in such sort, that whereas none can possibly without him attain salvation, by him 'all that believe' are saved.  Now whatsoever he did or suffered the end thereof was to open the doors of the kingdom of heaven which our iniquities had shut up.  But because by ascending after that sharpness of death was overcome he took the very local possession of glory, and that to the use of all that are his, even as himself before had witnessed, 'I go to prepare a place for you,' and again, 'whom thou hast given me O Father I will that where I am they be also with me, that my glory which thou hast given me they may behold,' it appeareth that when Christ did ascend he then most liberally opened the kingdom of heaven to the end that with him and by him all believers might reign ... We cannot better interpret the meaning of those words than Pope Leo himself expoundeth them whose speech concerning our Lord's ascension may serve instead of a marginall gloss, 'Christ's exaltation is our promotion, and whether the glory of the head is already gone before thither the hope of the body also is to follow.  For as this day we have not only the possession of paradise assured unto us, but in Christ we have entered the highest of the heavens.'  His opening the kingdom of heaven and his entrance thereinto was not only to his own use but for the benefit of all believers.


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