Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

Our Lord blossomed afresh when he rose from the tomb, and he bore fruit when he ascended to heaven.

As a flower he burgeoned from the depths of the earth; as the fruit he took his place on his lofty throne.

Enduring the torment of the Cross alone, he is that grain which he himself describes; surrounded by his Apostles, now unshakeable in their faith, he is the fruit.

In his converse with his disciples during those forty days after his Resurrection, he taught them the fullness of mature wisdom, and reaped from them an abundant harvest by the life-giving power of his words.

Then he ascended to heaven, bringing his Father the fruits of his incarnate life, and leaving in his disciples the seed of holiness.

Just as the eagle leaves the low lying ground, makes for the heights, and climbs high to heaven, in like manner our Saviour left the lower regions, made for the heights of Paradise, and reached heaven’s highest summit.

But what of the fact that an eagle often steals its prey by carrying off what belongs to another?

Even so, our Saviour did something not unlike that, for in a manner of speaking he stole his prey when he snatched the manhood he had assumed from ­the jaws of hell and carried it off to heaven, freeing the human ­race from slavery to an alien prince, that is, from the power of the devil, and leading it captive into a higher captivity.

As the prophet says, Ascending on high he led captivity captive; he gave gifts to men.

The undoubted meaning of these words is this: that since the devil held the human race captive, our Lord, by wresting it from him, took it captive himself and as the prophet tells us led that very captivity to the heights of heaven.

Both captivities do indeed bear the same name, but they differ one from the other.

The devil’s captivity means enslavement; Christ’s, on the contrary, means restoration to freedom.

Maximus of Turin (d. between 408 and 423): Sermon 56, 1-2 (CCL 23:224-225); from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Monday of the Sixth Week of Eastertide, Year 2

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