In these pictures of the Upper Room, you see first, the interior; second signs of the Muslim Mosque; third, a brass olive tree donated to Israel by the Catholic Association, and lastly, a column showing a Pelican feeding its young by taking blood from its side. This was an early Christian symbol of the Eucharist. When the Ottomans took over Upper Room, they removed all Christian symbols but this one. They did not understand its meaning.
In Jerusalem there is a building known as the Upper Room (or Cenacle). The present day structure is in Jerusalem on Mount Zion and dates to the 1200’s. It is a reconstruction made by the Crusaders using three out of the four original walls of the original structure from the time of Jesus. There were earlier reconstructions as well. It is a very HOLY building since it was used by the disciples for The Last Supper, The Washing of the Disciple’s feet by Jesus, Several Resurrection Appearances by Jesus, and the Election of Matthias as an Apostle to replace Judas. Lastly, it was the place where the Holy Spirit descended upon the Disciples on the Feast of Pentecost. It is such a Holy place that the early Christians used it as a place of worship, a synagogue (remember the Early Christians in Jerusalem practiced Judaism). In 384 the first large Christian Church was built right next to it and was known as the Church of the Apostles. The traditional Tomb of David is right below it. The Church of the Apostles, next to the Upper Room, was torn down by the Muslims in 1009 but Crusaders later took back the area and built the present reconstruction of the Upper Room. The Franciscans kept custody of it until 1552 when the Ottomans overtook it and they turned the Upper Room in to a Mosque. You can still see signs of the Muslim usage. In 1948 the government of Israel took it over and gave the Franciscans administrative control again.
This Holy room, the Upper Room is where our Church first began. The Disciples were unable to do much of anything after Jesus Ascended in to Heaven. They seem lost and powerless. However, with the Blessed Virgin Mary amongst them, the Power of the Holy Spirit came upon them at Pentecost and they were given the power to go out and form the Church. It is interesting here to throw in a little typology. In scripture study, we use the term typology to show the way that the Old Testament (Hebrew scriptures) and the New Testament are related. I would like to point out one thing about Pentecost regarding this. In yesterday’s post, Dan Gonzalez showed how Pentecost is a Jewish feast day. We, as Christians, see it as the birthday of our church. In looking at this we should look back to the Old Testament book of 2 Chronicles where we hear the story of the dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem that Solomon built. In this account, the scriptures tell us that 120 priests gathered for the dedication and a sacrifice was put on the altar. We are told that when the Ark of the Covenant was brought in to go in to the Holy of Holies, God sent fire from the sky to burn the sacrifice on the altar. When we look at the New Testament book of Acts we hear that the disciples and other followers, totaling 120 people, gathered in the Upper Room. The mother of Jesus, Mary, who is known as the New Ark of the Covenant gathered in the center of them all. God sent down the Holy Spirit upon them all as tongues of fire. In both accounts of the beginning of the Temple and the beginning of the Church, 120 people gathered with the Ark of the Covenant and God sent down fire. Our Lord is awesome.
As we celebrate this Holy Feast of Pentecost, let us give thanks to God for giving us the gift of the Holy Spirit and for the gift of the Church. Our Pentecost liturgy has a Sequence put in along with the normal scripture readings. This really should be read at every mass of Pentecost, but is quite often skipped over. Here is a copy of this Sequence. Read it over and see the precious gift that God has given to us in the Holy Spirit.
Sequence — Veni, Sancte Spiritus
Come, Holy Spirit, come!
And from your celestial home
Shed a ray of light divine!
Come, Father of the poor!
Come, source of all our store!
Come, within our bosoms shine.
You, of comforters the best;
You, the soul’s most welcome guest;
Sweet refreshment here below;
In our labor, rest most sweet;
Grateful coolness in the heat;
Solace in the midst of woe.
O most blessed Light divine,
Shine within these hearts of yours,
And our inmost being fill!
Where you are not, we have naught,
Nothing good in deed or thought,
Nothing free from taint of ill.
Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
On our dryness pour your dew;
Wash the stains of guilt away:
Bend the stubborn heart and will;
Melt the frozen, warm the chill;
Guide the steps that go astray.
On the faithful, who adore
And confess you, evermore
In your sevenfold gift descend;
Give them virtue’s sure reward;
Give them your salvation, Lord;
Give them joys that never end. Amen.
Note: Veni Sancte Spiritus is a true masterpiece of Latin poetry. In rhyme scheme, it is complex and gorgeous; lines one & two rhyme with each other, and line three always ends in the syllable –ium. In meter, the sequence is a very faithful example of trochaic dimeter. In content, it is a magnificent meditation on the Spirit’s guidance through consolation & desolation. So much is lost when this sequence is not sung in its original Latin.