The Upper Room In Jerusalem is entered through the Zion Gate. As you walk past the Jerusalem stone walls you are met by street vendors selling goods made of sesame, honey bars, and other products indigenous to the Holy Land. When the path splits into two, the walk continues toward the left until you reach a statue of David. The Jews frown upon this statue because they believe that it is an offense; Jewish culture does not venerate idols and considers this a graven image. Of the many times that I have visited, poor David has suffered amputated toes from the hands of Jews and, on several occasions, his nose has been broken.
This area of the Upper Room is considered the Jewish section of the Old City. The Muslims consider this to be a mosque, but the Israelis believe the lower level of the old structure is the Tomb of David. As Christians we remain neutral; we visit both the Tomb of David but spend most of our visit in the Upper Room. This is one of my five favorites sites to visit in the Holy Land.
The Upper Room
The Upper Room, also referred to as the Cenacle, is located in the southern part of the Old City of Jerusalem. In this room many historic occurrences took place that changed the course of Christianity: the Last Supper, the post-Resurrection and Resurrection of the Risen Christ, Pentecost, and the introduction of the Holy Spirit.
The Last Supper
I’m sure many of you have a picture of the Last Supper in your homes. This image is etched in our hearts. The apostles were too spiritually immature to receive the powerful message that Jesus shared about His death. Their eyes were clouded with the inability to comprehend this mystical phenomenon. These chosen few were not stand out people; they would go unnoticed to the world. Yet they were hand picked by Jesus.
The Institution of the Eucharist
This also took place during the Last Supper. This is our true communion with God. The Eucharist is what brought me back to the Catholic Church. In the 15 years of wandering from one Protestant church to another, nothing was more evident than the lack of Holy Communion. I had completed my religious journey by finding Christ in the Eucharist once again.
When I visit the Upper Room, I imagine Jesus holding up the bread and wine and consecrating it with His Holy Hands, I imagine the stillness in the room while our Lord spoke these words:
Our Upper Room
Our Upper Room is a time spent in communion with God. We seek to draw closer to Him from the same place where Jesus poured out His spirit. Jesus chose this room. He wants us to go up and visit, to stay and experience what His disciples felt, to be in complete union with Him. As I make my way up the spiritual steps to the Upper Room, sometimes I feel like Thomas, doubting yet desiring this emotion for growth to rise up within me. I want this encounter that the disciples experienced, the pure love of Christ. Jesus knows we are all human and fall short. He knew that Judas would betray Him. He knew that Peter would deny Him not once, but three times. Our Lord also knew that Thomas would doubt His Resurrection. We all suffer conflicting guilt for not serving the Lord as we should. Even though I’m in constant prayer throughout the day, I always feel that I should go deeper into prayer. The distractions of the world bring me out of the Upper Room, so this makes the climbing more laborious as I make my way up again. My desire is to reach the Upper Room void of all my daily burdens. I aspire to be in the presence of our Lord and receive what He has in store for me through contemplative prayer.
Contemplative prayer is the prayer of the quiet. You become one with God through emptying yourself so that the Holy Spirit can fill you. You rest in His holy presence by relaxing and breathing out all distractions. Your breathing must come naturally, not too slow, not too fast. Many times when I attempted to practice contemplative prayer in my home, my cat Prudie jumped on my belly. I can’t tell if she wants affection or if she wants to share this holy experience with me. It takes a lot of discipline to get into this spiritual zone. Believe me, many times I have attempted to reach this zenith but I failed miserably. I will not surrender to my shortcomings and will continue to attempt mastering this type of prayer.
Contemplation is a gaze of faith, fixed on Jesus. “I look at him and he looks at me”: this is what a certain peasant of Ars used to say to his holy cure about his prayer before the tabernacle…[Jesus’ gaze] …teaches us to see everything in the light of his truth and his compassion for all men [and women] (Catechism of the Catholic Church No 2715)
The Holy Spirit
I mentioned earlier about the apostles not fully understanding Jesus’ powerful message in the Upper Room. Only after Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit on them were their eyes fully opened. This is considered the Sacrament of Holy Communion. This all took place after the Resurrection, in the Upper Room. After Jesus’ Ascension, the fire of the Holy Spirit fell upon them. From that day on, the apostles went forth sharing the Good News with boldness. When we are filled with the fire of the Holy Spirit, we, too, can change the world by witnessing the love of Christ.
May we all encounter You, Lord, in the Upper Room. Close all distractions, especially those of social media. Allow us in Your Holy Presence. Meet us on the way up, so that we can see Your beautiful, nail-scarred hands extended toward us. Jesus, touch our hearts to become more like You. Amen.