Looking to the Upper Room to Make Sense of our Times:
Six Observations that Bring Hope as we Journey toward Pentecost
IVC is a vibrant community of lived-faith. How, then, are we to live out our call to put our faith into action during this time when we are living behind closed doors?
This same question was likely on the minds of the apostles after the Ascension when they entered to Upper Room. As we journey toward Pentecost together, consider the following observations on this sacred and privileged space.
The Upper Room is:
- A space to wait upon the promise – After the Ascension, the apostles and Mary assembled in the Upper Room to await the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to send the Holy Spirit. While they had no idea what to expect, they were confident in Jesus’ ability to deliver because they had, in fact, already witnessed things that seemed impossible. They were sustained by these memories and hoped in what was to come. One can imagine that the atmosphere in the Upper Room was charged with wonder as everyone waited expectantly.
- A space to prepare hearts – The Upper Room is a place in which each individual and the community entered into silent and prayerful preparation for the coming of the Spirit. Pope Paul VI called this time of preparation in the Upper Room before Pentecost “the first retreat.” It offered both a refuge from the world below and a safe place to learn to listen for the Spirit in the silence.
- A Suscipe Moment – The Upper Room is a school of humility and surrender where the Apostles learned to let go of their egos and put away quibbles over who was “best.” It was also a time of stilling their own passionate desire to go out and spread the Good News – they had, after all, already been commissioned and were ready to go! Yet, they surrendered their own wills and desires and obeyed Jesus’ order to stay in Jerusalem and await the Holy Spirit.
- A sacred space reserved for a felt experience of God’s love – The Pentecost moment is experiential not just intellectual. The apostles experienced the coming of the Spirit in the Upper Room with their physical senses – they felt and heard the great rumbling in the heavens and the rushing of the wind and they saw the flames of fire over the heads. In his book, Sober Intoxication of the Spirit: Born Again of Water and Spirit, Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa writes that the Holy Spirit “is the love that flows between the Father and the Son… to say that ‘they were all filled with the Holy Spirit,’ then, means that they were filled with the love of God and that the apostles had an overwhelming experience of being loved by God.”
- A place where the Holy Spirit strengthens community – Pope Paul IV said Pentecost “for the Church, is the feast of its inner animation through the infusion of the Holy Spirit with all his gifts.” The Holy Spirit brought unique charisms to each individual to be used to build up the new community of the church. The love of the Holy Spirit brought understanding, harmony, unity, peace, and a sense of security and goodwill – in essence, it brought the perfect community. After Pentecost, when the apostles spoke, people of all tongues could understand them. Their new Spirit-imbued tongue must have been utterly attractive because when they left the Upper Room and spoke with the crowds below over 3,000 people converted and joined the community.
- A place where the Holy Spirit renews – Raniero Cantalamessa notes that “it is God’s spirit of love that instills a new awareness, a supernatural energy, and a lively joy in that moment of wind and fire.” The Holy Spirit brings freshness and new meaning to our mission. It fills us with joy, passion, and energy that sustains us and impels us forward as we build the Kingdom, here and now.
- Like the apostles, we again sit behind closed doors awaiting the coming of the Spirit. In your mind, place yourself in prayer among the apostles and Mary in the Upper Room as they are preparing for Pentecost. As you settle in, take stock of all God’s blessings in your life. Notice the charged atmosphere in the Upper Room. Can you sense the excitement – the anticipation of God’s surprises?
- We sit today, together and alone, in a mysterious time of silent and prayerful preparation. Placing yourself again in prayer among the apostles and Mary in the Upper Room, notice the great variety of emotions that arise in your heart. Ask God for the grace to let go of all these things to make space for the Spirit.
- At its root, Pentecost is about God’s overwhelming love or, as Fr. Cantalamessa puts it, “a flood of love” that is “completely intoxicating.” Enter into prayer and ask the Holy Spirit for the grace of felt experience of this Love. In your journal, note how this is like to you. Notice physical sensations, feelings, images, inspirations, or other things that come to mind.
- Pope Paul VI said that the coming of the Holy Spirit brings “a great desire to rush to the aid of the suffering and needy and to proclaim pardon, friendship, and peace.” Are you noticing any growing awareness’s through the Holy Spirit in regard to your call to serve in IVC?
Prayer to the Holy Spirit
Lord, like the apostles in the Upper Room,
we assemble in our own upper rooms today.
We wait in hope upon your promise.
In our isolation, we recognize the gift of retreat that these days offer and
accept the invitation to prayerfully prepare our hearts for your coming.
We surrender our desires to you
As we wait upon your Spirit.
Fill us with your love, oh Holy Spirit!
Give us the grace to allow ourselves to be shaken from our own plans
and be filled with your diverse gifts
which bring peace and harmony
and build unity.
Renew us as we go forth to build your Kingdom,
your community of love,
in our own communities
For your greater glory. Amen.
Rebecca Ruiz is an Ignatian spiritual director and freelance writer based in Northern Virginia. She writes for Loyola Press and other outlets.
IVC By the Numbers
- 25 – Years of service to the poor and marginalized
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