Turn to MaryThe Invitatory for today's feast -- Our Lady of the Cenacle -- is drawn from the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles: Alleluia! Let us persevere in prayer * with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, alleluia. The presence of Mary makes perseverance in prayer possible. Without Mary, in our midst and at our side, we would grow weary and listless, and so lose the virile spirit of perseverance in prayer. So often prayer seems futile, or empty, or not worth the effort; at moments such as these we must turn to Mary, confident that she will pray in our stead and, gradually, almost imperceptibly, draw us into her own prayer until, as if by surprise, we find that we have persevered in praying after all.
Faith and Hope Resolve never to pray apart from Mary. Her presence in the Cenacle was a living flame of love, a hearth of fire and of light in the midst of a community bewildered by the mysterious Ascension of the Lord. Absent, but present, and present, but absent, the Lord was, already, in these days before Pentecost, schooling His Church in the prayer of faith, a persevering prayer, that goes on hoping even when the object of her hope seems far removed from her.
Present in the Cenacle Just how was Our Lord present in the Cenacle after His Ascension? He was present, first of all, in faithfulness to His promise that where two or three gather in His Name, there would He be, in the midst of them. He was present too in His words, repeated, remembered, and held in the heart. He was present in Peter, who in spite of all his weaknesses and failings, remained the rock chosen by Christ. He was present in John, the Beloved Disciple in whose heart burned an inextinguishable fire of love, the one enkindled at the Last Supper when, for the first time, Jesus fed Him with the mysteries of His Body and Blood. He was present in the silence, in the face, and in the voice of His Virgin Mother. She is the pillar of faith against whom every lie, every temptation, and every heresy is smashed to pieces. Finally, He was present in the bread become His Body, and in the chalice of wine mixed with water become His Blood.
The Lamb, the Altar, and the Holy of Holies What must Our Lady have felt when, in the Cenacle, she beheld, lying before her on the table, the very Flesh of her her own flesh and the very Blood of her own blood? Her Maternal Heart leapt in recognition of the Lamb. The table had become her altar. The Cenacle itself had become her Holy of Holies.
Here was her Son, the very fruit of her womb: the Jesus whom she had carried, nourished, washed, clothed, and kissed. Here, veiled, was the Face that disappeared from her sight on the Mount of Olives, when He ascended. Here, beating with a passionate love His Bride, the Church, was the very Heart that she saw pierced by the soldier's lance on Calvary.
Perseverance in Prayer There is but one way to persevere in prayer, and that is by remaining close to Mary. Distance from Mary is distance from the Church, and distance from the Church is distance from Christ. Moreover, where Mary is, there too is the Holy Ghost. To abide with Mary is to abide under the overshadowing of the Holy Ghost. To withdraw from Mary's presence is to withdraw from beneath the overshadowing of the Holy Ghost. It is to choose sterility over fecundity, self-assertion over obedience, and fleeting things over the imperishable treasures of the Kingdom of Heaven.
The Most Humble Heart of Mary One who remains close to Mary will grow in humility of heart, and one who grows in humility of heart becomes like a vessel emptied out, ready to be filled to overflowing with the sweet and fragrant anointing of the Holy Ghost. An antiphon in the Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary places these words in her mouth: "Ego placui Altissimo cum essem parvula" — "I was pleasing unto the Most High because I was so little".
Humility draws down the grace of the Holy Ghost and an abundant outpouring of His gifts. Without humility there is no space into which the Spirit of God can descend. Humility prepares the dwelling of God in the midst of men. It was by her humility that the most pure Mother of God caused the heavens to open over the Church gathered in the Cenacle.
It was by her humility as much as by her ceaseless prayer that Our Lady obtained the gift of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost. God resists the proud, but pours out His Love upon the lowly of heart. The Immaculate Heart of the Mother of God is the lowliest of hearts, free of all self–seeking, free of all reference to herself, and open to all the gifts of the Holy Ghost. And these were given her in such abundance that the Church, even now, continues to receive all graces from her Heart as from a pure and inexhaustible fountain.
You Will Find Her in the Cenacle More than anything else, my prayer for you today, asks that you may never depart from Mary. You will find her today in the Cenacle, all silent and absorbed in adoration. Approach her as closely as you can, and if you are too weak to make your way to her, ask her to make her way to you. This she will do, for hers is a Maternal Heart, and no weakness of our repels her. On the contrary, she has for the weakest and most unstable of her children, a tenderness that must be experienced in order to be understood. Blessed feast, then, of Our Lady of the Cenacle, our life, our sweetness, and our hope.