"I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. "Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them." -John 17:20-26
I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them. John 17:26 The 7th Sunday of Easter is the imposed pause, the anticipation of the promise, the flash of insight before the work of Pentecost begins. The church, not quite ready to be church, is asked to go deeper into love these ten days of Ascensiontide. You are asked to practice loving in dark faith, without the bodily presence of the Resurrected Christ. Like Mary Magdalene on the first day of the week, you go to the empty place expecting nothing but find everything. Like the Dark Night of the Soul, you ache for your loss only to experience love's consummation. You grope your way "with no other light than the one burning in my heart" toward that open, sunlit field "leaving my cares forgotten among the lilies" in union with God (John of the Cross). Easter is the wedding feast, and Ascension the nuptial chamber. In Ascensiontide we're called in dark faith to a deeper conversion, to our vocation to holiness (meditation one). We ask to be "fit for love" (meditation two), that dangerous call to the universal love conferred to us in Pentecost (meditation three). Our union with God impels and strengthens us to love. "I am the one who makes you to love; I am the one who makes you to long; I am the one, the endless fulfilling of all true desires." Julian of Norwich. May God make us all fit for love. Amen. -Suzanne
Meditation One (introit) other-worldly falling in love Religious conversion is being grasped by ultimate concern. It is other-worldly falling in love. It is total and permanent self-surrender without conditions, qualifications, reservations. But it is such a surrender, not as an act, but as a dynamic state that is prior to and principle of subsequent acts. It is revealed in retrospect as an under-tow of existential consciousness, as a fated acceptance of a vocation to holiness, as perhaps an increasing simplicity and passivity in prayer. It is interpreted differently in the context of different religious traditions. For Christians it is God's love flooding our hearts through the Holy Spirit given to us. It is the gift of grace... Bernard Lonergan 1904-1984 Method in Theology p.241
The mandorla, a circle within circles, lit from within or of a dark unknowing (above), evokes in two dimensions the mystery of multi-dimensions. On the left, Jesus enters the sphere of God in a mandorla of cloud. Above, firey seraphim wings with eyes surround the Great Entrance, resting on Ezekiel's chariot. Fire, cloud, and darkness all symbolize the Presence of God.
The following prayer evokes the feeling of helpless unknowing in Ascensiontide - between Jesus Ascesnion and the coming of the Holy Spirit:
O God, the King of glory, you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven: Do not leave us comfortless, but send us your Holy Spirit to strengthen us, and exalt us to that place where our Savior Christ has gone before; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
collect for the Seventh Sunday of Easter (Book of Common Prayer)
The Ascension, Russian, Novgorod School
Meditation Two (insight) holy lover of my soul Ah, Lord God, thou holy lover of my soul, when thou comest into my soul, all that is within me shall rejoice. Thou art my glory and the exultation of my heart; thou art my hope and refuge in the day of my trouble. Set me free from all evil passions, and heal my heart of all inordinate affections; that being inwardly cured and thoroughly cleansed, I may be made fit to love, courageous to suffer, steady to persevere. Nothing is sweeter than love, nothing more courageous, nothing fuller nor better in heaven and earth; because love is born of God, and cannot rest but in God, above all created things. Let me love thee more than myself, nor love myself but for thee; and in thee all that truly love thee, as the law of love commandeth, shining out from thyself. Amen Thomas a Kempis 1380-1471 from the Oxford Book of Prayer
Meditation Three (integration) universal love Love is invisible, but it is the most powerful force in human nature. Jesus spoke of the Spirit which he would send as Truth but also as Love. “If anyone loves me, my Father will love him and we will come to him and make our abode with him.” This is the love, the prema and bhakti, which was proclaimed in the Bhagavad Gita, the compassion (karuna) of Buddha, the rapturous love of the Sufi saints. Ultimately a religion is tested by its capacity to waken love in its followers, and, what is perhaps more difficult, to extend that love to all humanity. In the past religions have tended to confine their love to their own followers, but always there has been a movement to break through these barriers and attain to a universal love. -Bede Griffiths 1906-1993 Universal Wisdom quoted from Pathways to Peace
The Last Word
Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.
The church observes a kind of mourning - a time of waiting, unknowing, a desolate expectation of “I-know-not-what”. Like it's analogue, the dark night of the soul, Ascensiontide unfolds as a paradoxical state of perceived abandonment and unitive fulfillment. And like the dark night of the soul, Ascension yields the most profound fruitfulness of the interior life. Indeed these ten days offer a true 'dazzling darkness' of numinous Presence in absence.
In this liminal time between Jesus entering the Cloud, and the coming of the Holy Spirit, the church contemplates the High Priestly Prayer ( John, chapter 17). The lectionary divides the prayer in three parts for years A,B, and C.
Jesus prays for himself, for the disciples, and for the church to come in future generations. He prays for the unity of the disciples;“Keep them in thy name, which thou hast given me, that they may be one, even as we are one” (vs.11). He prays for union amongst future followers; “I do not pray for these (the disciples) only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, I and I in thee.” (vs.20-21a). He prays for humanity's overall union in love with God through him;“I made known to them thy name, and I will make it known, that the love with which thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them” (vs.26). Bruno Barnhart calls the High Priestly Prayer, “The Prayer of Consecration of the New Temple.”
Word Made Flesh becomes Flesh Made Word. Christ ascends not far away beyond clouds, but into the heart of hearts to manifest within every heart. The enthronement of Jesus takes place in deep union within us.
But the soul cannot perceive this at first. The mystics of the church testify to a stunning paradox. The abandonment IS the union. It is in the Dark Night of the Soul that Lover meets Beloved and transforming union takes place. A hidden union so intimate, perception fails for a time. But like the seasons of the soul that precede this one, a slow appropriation takes place. The inner eye adjusts to the light blazing behind the darkness. The light comes from within.
The with church we sing, “ Come, mine elect one: and I will set my throne within you.*”
May we all be one within this glorious and hidden union.