Tissot Noli Me TangereThe Resurrection, by Misericordia

“Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to my Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God”

I’m sure many of us can relate to Mary Magdalene in this passage. We are close to Him, and finally find Him, and then He sends us off! It seems a bit harsh for Jesus to push her away and tell her to go to the Apostles. But He doesn’t really! He only wants to be closer to her. He wants to dwell in her very soul as He does in each of ours, and has an urgency to do so! (It can be frustrating in the Gospels how un-urgent Jesus can be- but here He makes clear that He desires to waste no time in order that He might be even closer to each of “His own” than He ever was and would be in His pre-Resurrected and pre-Ascended Bodies.) He gives to Mary- who represents those who are wounded and in need of healing (probably all of us), the mission to first trust in His being with us “always,” and then second to proclaim His Presence among us. We, like Mary, have seen the Lord and know of His Love and desire to redeem us and bring us to where He has prepared a place for us, and we are called to witness to this redeeming love. We may mourn the loss of the Call we “used to have,” that made us feel useful in the Kingdom of God. This transition is difficult: from an ordered life, with the Teacher right alongside you, to a new lifestyle of mission and motion, without constant assurance and instruction. However, neither is without the Lord, and both are filled with His Providence and Love.

In the last part of this passage, Jesus also says something else extremely important! He makes it very clear that has made His Father our Father, and His God our God. We are made sons and daughters of God, the Father, just as Jesus is! Can we even understand this? St. Paul says that we are sons (and daughters) and coheirs of God- and we are! Because of His Love for us, He suffered and died so that we could be brought into the family of the Trinity. He wants us to live out of that reality right away, and this is why He is so urgent! He wants His brothers and sisters to believe so that they can accept Him into their very souls at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descends upon them. He wants each heart to be prepared to receive Him in Word and Sacrament.

Know that He dwells in you, that you are sacred because He has made you so. You do not need to “become” good enough for Him to dwell in you- surely He already has and does and will continue to dwell in you! Let yourself experience the Loving Gaze of Jesus, ask for the Confidence and Trust to let go of this world and your “securities” that you “hold onto” and live in the joy and freedom of Him dwelling in you and leading you into Hope, Healing, and one day our Heavenly Homeland!

Tissot AscensionThe Ascension, by Misericordia

I can’t imagine the emotional rollercoaster of the disciples after Our Lord’s Ascension into Heaven.

-First they find Jesus and He calls them all from different walks of life, and they follow Him.

-They are probably looking at each other confused as to why the other is chosen, and/or why they themselves are chosen, but they still follow Him.

-As they journey with Him He challenges them to live a life of continual conversion, persecution, and difficulty, but they still follow Him.

-He sometimes goes off to pray without them, but they still follow Him.

-He sometimes preaches against the teachings of the religious and political leaders of the time, but they still follow Him.

-He foretells His Death and turns out not to be the conquering warrior Savior they thought, but they still follow Him.

-He is captured, tried, condemned, and crucified, but they still follow Him.

-Then He rises from the dead and comes back to them, and after proving it was really Him they follow Him.

Then He Ascends into Heaven… now what? They felt the same feeling we often feel… what now Lord? Where are You? If you don’t make Yourself Present to me, how am I supposed to know Your Will?

I won’t elaborate on the Holy Spirit, since that’s the next Mystery. But I think it is true that the Lord gives us this time of anticipation, to remember what the Lord has done for us so that we can reflect and then recognize the graces that are to come. We often get anxious, wondering how we can still follow Him. But if we look at what the disciples did, they gathered together with the Blessed Mother. I imagine they prayed, talked about what great things the Lord had done for them, and made proposals for what they would do when the Lord would send them out at Pentecost. So what can we do in times of transition? Three things come to my mind. In imitation of the disciples: pray, reach out to those who can support us- including the Blessed Mother, and give yourself time to process and reflect. From this time of prayerful reflection with the guidance of others we can gain insight as to what He might have planned for the future, and prepare for His coming. Anticipation is hard, but even in that time, we still follow Him.

Tissot Communion of ApostlesPentecost, by Misericordia

When I was confirmed in eighth grade, I was not even slightly aware of the power of the Sacrament I had just received. Our class was more excited about the names we were taking, the dresses we were wearing to the Mass, and the party following! I did a small research paper on my saint, and memorized the beatitudes and gifts of the Holy Spirit for the test…quickly forgetting them after the exam that no one actually failed.

I think of this in comparison to what the Apostles experienced on Pentecost. Tongues of fire, rushing wind, Peter (not the brightest crayon in the box) speaking different languages…pretty amazing!

God chose to come to the Apostles in a rather dramatic scene, but we are no less anointed! Even if we were confirmed nonchalantly or don’t feel a sense of our own mission, we still possess the same spirit. Upon receiving the spirit, Peter proclaims,

“”It will come to pass in the last days,” God says,

“that I will pour out a portion of my spirit upon all flesh.

Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,

your young men shall see visions,

your old men shall dream dreams.

Indeed, upon my servants and my handmaids

I will pour out a portion of my spirit in those days,

and they shall prophesy.””

We can feel removed from the Lord, Mary and the Saints, and those who are not (yet) saints but do “great” things – that we are not good enough for “great” things, since we don’t speak in tongues or see visions or have dreams…this makes me think back to the Magnificat. I know, wrong Mystery, but Our Lady makes an important point! “The Lord has looked with favor on His lowly servant, the Almighty has done great things for me, and Holy is His Name”… You see, Our Lady and the Apostles show us that our lowliness and our littleness allows more room for transformation in Christ. In the words of John the Baptist: “He must increase, I must decrease.”

Transition can make us belittle ourselves and we can become afraid to be “evangelically bold” as Pope Francis would say, because we see ourselves as failures. But lets turn again to the Apostles. Might they have felt something similar? And did the Lord withhold from them an outpouring of His Spirit? And did the uncertainty of the specifics of their mission and where it would lead them prevent them from doing God’s Will?

I hope that in meditating on this Third Mystery of the Glorious Mysteries that you all will become more aware of the glory God has revealed through you and that all fear will be banished from your hearts, so that you may say with Peter, who quotes Psalm 16:

“Therefore my heart has been glad and my tongue has exulted;

my flesh, too, will dwell in hope,

because you will not abandon my soul to the netherworld,

nor will you suffer your holy one to see corruption.

You have made known to me the paths of life;

you will fill me with joy in your presence.”

Correggio AssumptionThe Assumption, by Cinnamon

I entered the convent on a scorching hot Friday afternoon, which in some ways made what followed inevitable. After a glass of lemon squash and a quick catch-up, the Sisters and I headed over to the local church for the 3pm Rosary. Hot day, stuffy church, tired traveller… suffice it to say that halfway through the Sorrowful Mysteries, I began my postulancy by falling dramatically at the Sisters’ feet.

Afterward, I wanted to stay and finish the Rosary (sitting, though, not kneeling), but was instead gently chivvied off to my cell for a lie-down. That was my first experience of religious obedience, and also of the comparative willingness of the flesh versus the spirit. Many more such lessons followed: a few months after I entered, I caught a flu that came back repeatedly and brought seven others worse than itself every time, eventually hampering my ability to keep up with community life. It’s easy to become a Gnostic when you want to be at Matins with the community, and instead you’re stuck in bed with only a packet of aspirin for company: to see the body as something useless that drags down the soul and hinders its service to God.
The Assumption of Mary is a direct challenge to that mindset. It reminds us that both the body and soul are important and valued by God, and created for His service. Instead of “liberating” Mary’s soul and letting her body corrode, God raised her whole being to Himself: the body that had borne Christ, and the soul that had suffered with Him on Calvary. Both body and soul were her, and neither could have been discarded.
Moreover, Mary’s Assumption is a sign of our own future resurrection – like her, we will one day worship God with souls and bodies rejoined forever. We are designed to long, not for liberation, but for completion. In the meantime, suffering of the body (weariness, illness or injury) and suffering of the soul (loneliness and loss after leaving the convent life) can be brought to God as an offering, and the Author of our bodies and souls will accept both with love.

Correggio Coronation WMCThe Coronation of Mary, by Cinnamon.

Here’s a confession: I’ve always found it difficult to concentrate while praying the Rosary. “Hail Mary, full of grace… mustn’t forget to buy bread on the way home. The Lord is with thee. Wholemeal.” In the convent, saying five Mysteries daily, these distractions got worse instead of better.

Eventually, though, I developed a system that helped me to focus: I would link the different sets of Mysteries. For example, when meditating on the Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple, I would let my mind drift back and forth between the image of Mary finding and embracing her twelve-year-old Son, and the fourth Sorrowful Mystery in which He embraces her on the road to Calvary. (I’ve also discovered that this works really well as an antidote to sickly sweet hymns and carols. For example, try singing Away in a Manger with your gaze fixed on a crucifix. I guarantee the words “No crying He makes” will suddenly send a chill down your spine.)
This final Glorious Mystery, the conclusion of the Rosary, is a beautiful one in which to search for parallels. At the beginning, I compared it with the Crowning of Christ with Thorns – seeing both the dignity with which Christ bent to accept His painful crown from mankind, and the quiet, grave expression of His mother as He placed the crown of stars upon her head in heaven. Later, I began to join it instead with the Mystery that began the whole story that unfolds throughout the Rosary: the Annunciation. Once, years before, the archangel Gabriel had called, “Hail, full of grace!” to a humble young woman from Nazareth – was this his greeting as he bowed before Mary, Queen of the Angels?
“The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” She kneels before her divine Son, who raises the crown high above her, then lays it upon her head forever. “I am the handmaiden of the Lord,” she says. “Be it done unto me according to Thy word.” The Rosary is complete.