It’s an image that is familiar to any Christian. It’s been the subject for myriad artists for centuries, from paint-by-number coloring books to DaVinci, Raphael, and the greats. The Upper Room is a source of great mystery while at the same time being the center of several of the most significant events of Revelation. It was there that Christ shared the Last Supper with His apostles, but it was also there that Christ appeared to the apostles after His resurrection to institute the sacrament of penance. And it was there that the Holy Spirit rushed upon the apostles to empower them and lead them to all truth as Christ had promised.
Each chapter of Msgr. Vaghi’s book is like a mini-retreat or extended meditation on one of these mysteries. He draws the reader to consider each one in light of a common theme–mercy. In each mystery, God shows forth His tender mercy. He feeds us with His body and blood to give us strength for the passion. He gives us priests who make possible the sacramental life of the Church and, in particular, the sacrament of penance. And He sends His Spirit, the advocate, the paraclete–the one who pleads our cause and gives us comfort in sorrow.
Mercy binds all these scenes together and is our invitation to a deeper and more intimate life with Christ through the Spirit. It’s the same invitation that Christ gave to Peter in a moment of deep reconciliation. As Pope Francis stated of Peter, “when he hits bottom he meets the gaze of Jesus who patiently, wordlessly, says to him: ‘Peter, don’t be afraid of your weakness, trust in Me.'” (22) This is the great gift that is offered to us as well, and the same gift that is exemplified in the events of the Upper Room.
The Upper Room is not only the locus for major events with major theological significance, it should be (analogously) the place of our our spirituality as well. That is, we should return to our own interior “Upper Rooms” to enter into these profound mysteries. The Upper Room of our hearts is where we can encounter Christ more profoundly and learn more about Him.
Jesus’ closest friends shared the Last Supper with Him, and during the time spent in the Upper Room, Jesus disclosed more of Who He was to those He loved. The same thing will happen if we take the time to sit with Him in the Upper Room of our hearts. As Msgr. Vaghi notes, the “Upper Room is coterminous with the word prayer.” (52) If we give of ourselves, He will give Himself to us in love and friendship: “an encounter with the person Jesus is the basis of our friendship with him.” (59) And, as Msgr. Vaghi quotes Pope Benedict XVI: “Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” (59, quoting Deus Caritas Est, 1)
Let us spend time in the Upper Room of our hearts and be brought into that deep encounter with Christ that forms the basis of our friendship with Him and with everyone around us. In this way, we will be experiencing the love that God has called us to as reflected in the great mysteries we celebrate in that room.
For an honest review of this book, I received a complimentary review copy.