CommmentaryBecause it is the last Sunday before Ascension Day, the texts of the sixth Sunday of Easter in effect become “the last words” of the resurrected Jesus to his friends.On the soul’s journey in Easter we play the role of Mary at the tomb, Thomas in the upper room, the astonished disciples at Emmaus and upon the shore eating fish from a marvelous catch. And now, we listen closely to these last words:“Love one another as I have loved you.” How did he love us?
Meditation One offers some prompts in that direction: No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:13) Here is a hint of the apostolic union the mystical process brings us to in the Pentecost of our souls. We’ve been formed in the Christian “way” to give up our lives for others. The mystical way is formation in love, and love will be asked of us.
While Jesus warns that he promises he will send the Comforter (the Holy Spirit) to be present to us.Any change in the soul causes grief and a sense of loss.As the loss of the Jesus of the Resurrection was to the disciples, so is the loss of this first phase of unitive prayer.Meditation Two offers a lament by John of the Cross.I’ve found this prayer useful not only in seasons like ascensiontide in my own soul – but in all sorts of soul situations.
Meditation Three replaces the imagery of Jesus flying off somewhere into the clouds, enthoned on high and out of sight. Jesus may be obscured, but it is because now he is so radically intimate. The enthronement takes place within ourselves.
MedtationOne no greater love
And Jesus said, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34
At the evening of life you will be examined in love. -John of the Cross
No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13
This anecdote is often told by the Dalai Lama about a Tibetan monk who had been tortured in a Chinese prison for 22 years. When the monk reached Dharamsala, the Dalai Lama asked him: "What were you afraid of the most in prison?" He replied: "I was afraid that I might lose my compassion towards the torturers."
Ascension, Andrea di Vanni d'Andrea, 1355, detail
Jesus Teaching, Jesus and the Eleven, Duccio, 1308-11
Why, since You wounded
This heart, don’t You heal it?
And why, since You stole it from me,
Do You leave it so,
And fail to carry off what You have stolen?
-John of the Cross, Spiritual Canticle, 9
Ascension, Andrea di Vanni D'Andrea, 1355, detail
Meditation three Waiting upon the fulfillment of the Promise:
Let not your hearts be troubled, believe in God, believe also in my. 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. John 14:1-3
Come, mine elect one: and I will set my throne within you. -Antiphon at Lauds, Saints Days
It came to me that the soul is like a castle made exclusively of diamond or some other very clear crystal.In this castle are a multitude of dwellings, just as in heaven there are many mansions. … this castle has many dwellings: come above, some below, others to either side.At the center is the most important dwelling of them all where the most secret things unfold between the soul and her Beloved.
-Teresa of Avila, The InteriorCastle, Translation by Mirabai Starr.
The Last Word
I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you.Yet a little while, and the world will see me no more, but you will see me; because I live, you will live also. John 14:18-19
Collect for Sixth Sunday of Easter
O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.