Ascension 2017

May 28, 2017 | Reflections From Sr Mary

When I am lifted up from the earth,
I will draw all people to myself.
Jn 12:32

Today we celebrate that wonderful mystery of the Ascension of the Lord. I couldn’t let the feastday pass without sharing a few words about the figure of Jesus on the cross which is in our church. Some of you may know its history but others won’t so I want to take this opportunity to pass on a little bit of our more recent heritage.

When the Abbey was being built back in 1988-89 we chose that figure of Jesus quite deliberately. In our church at Pennant Hills our crucifix was the one that is now in the cloister as we round the corner to the church. However, as we were planning the new Abbey, we decided to have a figure specially carved that would encompass the whole Paschal Mystery of Christ – his life, death, resurrection and ascension.

The particular figure we chose emphasized the Ascension of Jesus but unlike most of the artwork we see depicting this event, the arms of Jesus are not reaching up to the Father but rather, they are reaching down to humankind. This deeply moving image draws its inspiration from the words of Jesus himself to his disciples:

When I am lifted up from the earth,
I will draw all to myself.

In many ways, we could say that our image symbolizes the Contemplative Christ reaching down and drawing all humankind with him to the Father. And, in turn, the Contemplative Christ is stretching down his arms to us, as contemplative women, calling us to join him in his promise and his work of reaching out and drawing all people to God.

It is a powerful image for us living in today’s world where there is so much fear, terror, hunger and death. This week alone has held far too much of all those things. We have been confronted with the bombings in Manchester, the brutal slaying of Coptic Christians in Egypt, the mud slide in Sri Lanka, the drought and war in Yemen and many parts of Africa. Closer to home, we re-lived the terror of the Lindt café siege when the coroner’s findings were released and also commemorated National Sorry Day and the 50th anniversary of the Indigenous Referendum both of which highlight just how far we still have to go in closing the gap of respect, recognition and equality for our First Peoples.

We also have the less public requests for our prayer… the notices on our prayer board, the verbal requests we all receive asking for prayer and all the prayers needed for unknown people living without a voice, without hope and so often without any love. All of these people and events and so many more are crying out to us for our concern, our deep reflection and especially our prayer.

When I am lifted up from the earth,
I will draw all people to myself.

Aileen, Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo’s secretary, shared with me that when they were in Israel they visited a Carmelite Monastery. One of the nuns there told them about a visit she had from a family and the little boy asked her “What do you do?”
She answered: “We pray for Israel”
The boy replied: “Well it’s not doing much good is it?”
She responded: “Well imagine what would happen if we didn’t pray for Israel.”
The boy thought for a while and then said:
“I guess you’d better keep on praying!”

As enclosed nuns, as contemplatives, our mission is to be that unifying force in the world that intercedes and lifts up all to God. Let us take this seriously and stand beside Jesus as he ascends to the Father. With him, let us draw all of humankind to safety, love and unity.

We cannot physically or even financially do anything about these situations in our world and we seldom see the effects of our prayer but we have faith and we believe that our prayer does make a difference. We believe deeply in the power of prayer!

As we enter into our own “upper room” this week waiting and praying for the Spirit to come, I invite you to gaze often on the figure of our Contemplative Christ in the church remembering his promise and hearing anew his call to us to join him in this work of drawing all people to the Father.

Let us ask the Holy Spirit to come upon our world with power and healing.

And as we pass by the Icon of the Mother of God each day let us ask her to intercede for world peace. As St Aelred said to his sister: let us “embrace the world with the arms of prayer”.

When I am lifted up from the earth,
I will draw all people to myself.