[Testimony] The Mystery of the Cenacle
“Each year as the feast of the Cenacle approaches, I find myself wondering what was really happening in that upper room. What were they feeling, thinking, were they sharing their memories, their confusion, fearful, anxious about what the future would bring. The disciples we are told in the Scripture, went to the upper room and locked themselves in for fear of the Jews and were joined by Mary and the women.
This year, after fourteen months of lockdown I feel I have a very different insight into this Cenacle experience and a totally different understanding of what being locked down in fear might have been like for them. Fear can lock us in on our self, erode our joy, and diminish our hope. Many of us and I imagine the disciples also, experienced some of these feelings.
The message we see in the upper room and which was my own and I know other peoples is that fear isn’t the last word. We see the disciples taking hold of life again and setting about the task electing a replacement for Judas. What renewed their hope and faith. The answer is, I believe, in the phrase form the scripture “All these were persevering with one mind in prayer with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus and his brethren.” Acts12:1-14) they supported each other and they prayed, they waited. Noting much seems to be happening, entering into the silence and stillness of prayer can feel disturbing. Jesus knew the importance of waiting in prayer, of putting down the busyness of everyday life. The disciples needed this time to take stock of all that had happened to face their own thoughts, feelings failures, weaknesses, to be open to the promptings of the spirit. We too have had our time of waiting in our ’upper room’ our ‘Cenacle, we too have experienced the support of community and been encouraged and strengthened by our experiences of online prayer.
Pope Paul V1 spoke of the upper room experience as the first retreat of the church. Maybe the feast of the Cenacle and our own ‘cenacle’ experiences can remind us of the power and importance of these times of coming apart and waiting.
I want to focus now on how I experience Mary in the Cenacle. Mary who has already known the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit at the Annunciation. Mary the woman of faith nd prayer, who ‘pondered all these things in her heart.’ Mary who at the foot of the cross became our mother in the words of Jesus to John: “Woman behold thy son, son behold they mother” I see Mary now at the point of mid-life, mature, whose faith has been tested in so many ways , yet who always remained faithful. I see Mary with that motherly heart, loving, encouraging, and helping to build up that little community. Praying with them, helping them to remain steadfast, for the coming of the Holy Spirit, ready to be sent on their mission. Mary’s role is not to be sent out but to be Mother of the Church.
Someone we can all now turn to intercede for us that we might be faithful witnesses to her Risen Son.
Mary can help us to understand what it means to come apart and wait.”