Speaking to the throng gathered in St. Peter's Square before the Regina Coeli on Sunday, the Holy Father referred to the day's Gospel reading in which Jesus departs from the disciples. The Ascension, he said, permits us to "foretaste" the divine life from here on earth.
Despite the dark clouds that hung over the Vatican, threatening rain showers, well over 100,000 people were present in the Square and surrounding streets to hear the Pope's message and to recite the Marian prayer on Sunday.
The Holy Father told them that the Ascension, celebrated in Italy on Sunday, is not a question of abandonment, because “He remains with them forever in a new way."
Using the words of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, he explained that the event took place in three stages: first was the glory of the Resurrection, then the power to judge and finally his Ascension to sit at the right hand of the Father.
The Pope recalled that it was preceded by the blessing of the disciples which prepared them for the gift of the Holy Spirit "so that salvation might be proclaimed everywhere."
Then, he continued, the Lord attracted their eyes heavenwards so as to indicate "the good way during the earthly life."
He continues to be with us on our path as Christians, said Benedict XVI, as He is “the companion of those persecuted because of their faith” and is in “the heart of the marginalized and is present in those to whom the right to life is denied."
We also remain able to hear, see and touch the Lord through the Church, he went on, especially through the Word and the sacraments.
Turning to those receiving the sacrament of confirmation this Easter season, he exhorted them to "stay faithful to the World of God and to the learned doctrine," while keeping close to the sacraments of Confession and the Eucharist, "aware of having been chosen and constituted to witness to the Truth."
As Sunday is also World Communications Day, he also renewed his invitation to priests to be strong witnesses to the Gospel, wisely using communications media "to make the life of the Church known and helping mankind today to discover the face of Christ."
Before turning in prayer to the Virgin Mary in the Regina Coeli, Pope Benedict closed by referring back to the Ascension. Through this event, he said, the Lord opened the way to Heaven for us, thus permitting us to "foretaste" the divine life from our place on earth.