Seventh Sunday of Easter
Once we get to the feast of the Ascension I feel that at last I am walking on a familiar path, the landmarks and signposts of faith are that much clearer-put it this way, I wasn't with him in his ministry, not at that last supper, or passion, or death, as yet I haven't met the risen Lord in the ways in which he appeared to his disciples, like you I belong to those who come after, who believe having not experienced any of these things in the way those who were there did. So, I have to take what is proclaimed in trust, yet, I also believe because I have met the Lord in other ways, as we all do. The Ascension and this time of preparation for Pentecost is very much MY festival time. How come?
I know the pang and pain of separation especially the grief of death, and any of us who have gone through this trauma know that somehow those gone are there in other ways, the love we have for them is a great key to this, and I sense in dream and memory they reach past the barrier of time to blow a gently breath into our troubled souls, a hint, a little glimpse that they are there.
Is this what the ascension was like? Taken from them, the disciples felt like orphans without Jesus, they missed him keenly, but gradually their lives were filled with another gift, the energy, power, imagination, love, faith and hope of the Holy Spirit! That has been my experience too, at the heart of things, God is! The Trinity dances its tune in my life and sings its song and invites me to join in, as it does to all of us.
So, this Sunday I rejoice in that passage from Gospel of John, which is very much the prayer of Jesus for us all, his farewell prayer so to speak. It is so powerful that I shall now let it speak to us simply so that we can pray through it too.
Firstly the loving desire of Jesus for us: "I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me". (Jn 17: 20,21) May we really work to become one!
Secondly, Jesus prays that we may be with him always: 'Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am* they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world" (Jn 17: 24) This is our vocation and destiny, baptised in Him, anointed with the Spirit we become part of the living glory of God, part of the resurrection to eternal life!
Lastly, thirdly, we belong with God for ever and even now are part of that family of witnesses, we are named by God, as part of this family our destiny is to be the disciples of Christ and to be witnesses to the love which never ends:" I made known to them your name and I will make it known,* that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them."(Jn 17:27)
May we like the martyr Stephen walk in hope and see at our own ending that vision of the reality now hidden from our sight, and say as Stephen said: "Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." Amen, Come Lord Jesus!
Poem: Ascension by Malcolm Guite
We saw his light break through the cloud of glory
Whilst we were rooted still in time and place
As earth became a part of Heaven's story
And heaven opened to his human face.
We saw him go and yet we were not parted
He took us with him to the heart of things
The heart that broke for all the broken-hearted
Is whole and Heaven-centred now, and sings,
Sings in the strength that rises out of weakness,
Sings through the clouds that veil him from our sight,
Whilst we our selves become his clouds of witness
And sing the waning darkness into light,
His light in us, and ours in him concealed,
Which all creation waits to see revealed.
From the teaching of Saint Seraphim of Zarov
The acquisition of the Holy Spirit ( Conversation with Pilgrim Motilov 1831)
And whoever lives and believes in Me will never die (John 11:26). He who has the grace of the Holy Spirit in reward for right faith in Christ, even if on account of human frailty his soul were to die for some sin or other, yet he will not die for ever, but he will be raised by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ Who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29), and freely gives grace upon grace. Of this grace, which was manifested to the whole world and to our human race by the God-man, it is said in the Gospel: In Him was life, and the life was the light of men (John 1:4); and further: And the light shines in the darkness; and the darkness has never swallowed it (John 1:5). This means that the grace of the Holy Spirit which is granted at baptism in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, in spite of man's fall into sin, in spite of the darkness surrounding our soul, nevertheless shines in our hearts with the divine light (which has existed from time immemorial) of the inestimable merits of Christ. In the event of a sinner's impenitence this light of Christ cries to the Father: 'Abba, Father! Be not angry with this impenitence to the end (of his life).' Then, at the sinners conversion to the way of repentance, it effaces completely all trace of past sin and clothes the former sinner once more in a robe of incorruption spun from the grace of the Holy Spirit. The acquisition of this is the aim of the Christian life, which I have been explaining to your Godliness.
Note: SAINT SERAPHIM OF SAROV: ON THE ACQUISITION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Conversation with Motovilov
An example of the grace of the Holy Spirit at work within the life and words of St Seraphim of Sarov has been preserved for us. In November of 1831, a pious Orthodox Christian named Nicholas Motovilov met with Saint Seraphim, and recorded his conversation.
Fr Robin is an Eastern Rite Catholic Chaplain for Melkites in the UK. He is also an Ecumenical Canon of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford.
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