In a way, Jesus’ abandonment of the disciples upon the Mount of Olives is more profound than the abandonment on Calvary. The disciples themselves predicted he would die. “Let us go and die with him” says a resigned Thomas when Jesus chooses to risk going to Judea to console his friends in Bethany.As grevious as it was, the crucifixion was no surprise.But no one could have imagined the Resurrection and the extraordinary forty days during which Jesus dwelled again with his friends.Imagine their despair when Jesus entered the Cloud. “If I do not go, the Comforter will not come.” Again, imagination fails. The Church gives us ten days to practice dwelling in the ambiguous time of the Resurrected Christ vanished, and the Holy Spirit not yet come. In the mystical life, Ascensiontide is the Dark Night of the Soul, the anguished sense of abandonment after a solid period of union.The soul can not cling even to this union.The last threads of attachment must be broken in the darkness of unknowing before the completion of the Christian transformation – being “sent” into the world as bearers of Love.
But the mystics 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.
The prompts: Meditation One expresses the anguish of mystical loss. Meditation Two quotes a familiar hymn expressing the promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit. Meditation Three is John of the Cross's poem describing the union of the soul with God: The Dark Night of the Soul.
Meditation One Wounded by love
Of this inward demand and this invitation, and also because the creature lifts itself up and offers itself, and all that it can do, and yet can neither attain nor acquire the unity - of these things spring a ghostly pain. When the inmost part of the heart and the source of life have been wounded by love, and one cannot obtain that which one desires above all things, but must ever abide where one does not wish to be: from these two things pain comes forth. Here Christ is risen to the zenith of the conscience, and He sends His Divine rays into the hungry desires and into the longings of the heart; and this splendour burns and dries up and consumes all the moisture, that is, the strength and the powers of nature. The desire of the open heart, and the shining of the Divine rays, cause a perpetual pain. -John Ruysbroeck , The Adornment of the Spiritual Marriage Chapter XXIII
Meditation Two The Promise
Alleluia! Not as orphans are we left in sorrow now; Alleluia! He is near us, faith believes, nor questions how: though the cloud from sight received him, when the forty days were o’er, shall our hearts forget his promise, “I am with you evermore”?
William Chatterton Dix (1837-1898)Second verse of Alleluia! Sing to Jesus (#460-461, 1982 Hymnal)
Russian, 18th Century
Rabbula Gospel, Antiochan Tradition, 500's
The mandorla, a circle within circles, lit from within or of a dark unknowing, 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. Both fire and cloud symbolize the Presence of God.
The Collects for Ascension Day and Easter 7
Almighty God, whose blessed Son our Savior Jesus Christ ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things: Mercifully give us faith to perceive that, according to his
promise, he abides with his Church on earth, even to the end of the ages; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory
Grant, we pray, Almighty God, that as we believe your only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended into heaven, so we may also in heart and mind there ascend, and with him continually dwell; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Seventh Sunday of Easter: The Sunday after Ascension Day
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.
Ascension, Russian, Novgorod School
Meditation Three The Dark Night
Bride Searches for Her Beloved
The Bride Finds Her Beloved
The Beloved Crowns His Bride
Scenes from the Song of Songs, Hesdin of Amiens, c 1450-55
The Dark Night
One dark night,Fired with love’s urgent longings -Ah, the sheer grace!- I went out unseen, My house being now all stilled;
In darkness, and secure, By the secret ladder, disguised, -Ah, the sheer grace!- In darkness and concealment, My house being now all stilled;
On that glad night, In secret, for no one saw me, Nor did I look at anything, With no other light or guide Than the one that burned in my heart;
This guided me More surely than the light of To where He waited for me -Him I knew so well- In a place where no one else appeared.
O guiding night! O night more lovely than the dawn! O night that has united The Lover with His beloved, Transforming the beloved in her Lover.
Upon my flowering breast Which I kept wholly for Him alone, There He lay sleeping, And I caressing Him There in a breeze from the fanning cedars.
When the breeze blew from the turret Parting His hair,He wounded my neck With his gentle hand, Suspending all my senses.
I abandoned and forgot myself, Laying my face on my Beloved; All things ceased; I went out from myself, Leaving my cares Forgotten among the lilies.
-John of the Cross, The Dark Night trans. Kieran Kavanaugh OCD & Otilio Rodriguez OCD
The Last Word from the "High Priestly Prayer" of Jesus
And now I am no more in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to thee.Holy One, keep them in thy name, which thou hast given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.John 17:12