A Meditation on the Upper Room: from Good Friday’s Grief to Easter Joy

Julia Morell

A Meditation on the Upper Room: from Good Friday’s Grief to Easter Joy

The chill of dusk sets in as Mary, St. John and the holy women prepare to leave the tomb of their Savior. John wraps his arm around the Mother of God as Mary Magdalene grips the crook of her elbow, shaking with the cold of shock and trauma. Even after all that she suffered as co-redemptrix, the Blessed Mother appears calm and dignified in her grief. She consoles Mary Magdalene and the holy women with a few soft spoken words and gives John a half smile of encouragement. They depart for the Upper Room where just the night before, Jesus had hosted the Last Supper.

John closes and locks the door and turns to face the women. They stand there for a moment not saying a word, the shock of finality knocking the breath out of many of them. Mother Mary, in true nature, breaks the stunned silence with words of thanksgiving. She thanks her companions for having remained throughout her Son’s Passion after she thanks God for their safety. Following a blessing, the group retires; some take food while others fast and rest. All are exhausted in body and spirit. 

Except for Mary, who does not tire in prayer. She does not go to sleep but goes into a separate space to be alone with God. She prays unceasingly, meditating on the Passion of her Divine Son in solitude and in the silence of her heart. There, in the very room where Jesus humbly washed the feet of His Apostles, and especially of His betrayer, with humble and sincere love, the Blessed Mother prays fervently for those who abandoned their Master during His Passion, and especially for both Judas and Peter. Sweet Mother Mary, thank you for your maternal care. Thank you for the graces that you have obtained for me at a time when I was far from God, graces that catalyze my reversion again and again as you lead me ever closer to your Son’s heart.

The next morning, Mary makes a morning offering with John, kneeling right next to him as a steady support right as he rises to face his first day without Jesus in three years. John asks her to pray for him as he seeks out his fellow Apostles. As he is halfway down the stairs on his way out, John bumps into Peter. After betraying Jesus, Peter spent the night hidden away in a cave, weeping and praying for repentance. Lord God, how many times have I shut myself away in this dark cave? How many times have I delayed repentance by wallowing in desolation and loving my own sorrow? Mother Mary, pray for me as you prayed for Peter so that grace upon grace may permeate my soul, compelling me to run home.

On the stairs, John embraces Peter; both are overcome with emotion. Wordlessly, John squeezes Peter's shoulder and continues his descent. Peter looks up the stairs towards the door of the Upper Room. As he resumes the climb, grief and shame burn in his chest. The courage that drives him forward is derived in his trust in Divine Mercy and in God’s love for him. There, in the very room where he made his now-broken promise to Jesus, he is overcome by sobs of intense sorrow. Wracked by tears, he falls to the floor in front of the Blessed Mother. There, in the very room where he asked Jesus to wash not only his feet but his hands as well, Peter begs God to make him clean. Mary puts a comforting hand on his shoulder and prays with him. She reminds him of the Lord’s many acts of mercy toward great sinners. Through her intercession, his tears gradually become tears of gratitude as he gains the supernatural strength to reenter into his role of leadership.

My Jesus, I want to be like Simon, carrying my cross next to You. And yet, so often I am the executioner who whips you; I am a member of the jeering crowd. So many times I am Judas, betraying your goodness out of selfishness and pride. I am Peter, fleeing in fear as I allow the world to crowd out the peace that I have in You alone. My Lord and My God, if words of praise and thanksgiving could flow from my lips like the waters of a river, I would never have enough time in all of my life to express the gratitude that wells in my heart when I think of your Sacred Heart that gushes with unconditional and unceasing love and mercy. Thank you for the abandon with which You pursue my heart. Thank You for the gift of Your Mother, who takes me by the hand and leads me on the Way to your Heart.

As the Apostles arrive, some one by one, others supported by another brother, they weep bitterly. Although they have maintained a sense of hope and trust in the goodness of God which compels them to return to the Upper Room, they are wracked with guilt and shame for having fled in fear, for having abandoned their closest friend in the hour of His greatest suffering. And yet, never was it known that anyone who fled to Mary’s protection, implored her help or sought her intercession was left unaided. As they wait for the Lord, Mary is a source of steady encouragement in the Upper Room, speaking to them in a touchingly kind and simple way, and urging them to persevere in faith and prayer. Mary, who united in her valiant heart all the faith and holiness of the Church as she alone preserved perfect hope and love and adoration for the incarnate Lord. Mary, who even when laying her Son in the tomb, did not sew up the burial cloth for she knew for sure that he would not decay there but would rise again. Oh what comfort must the Blessed Mother have been to those in the Upper Room in those days of the first Triduum! Through God’s grace and Mary’s intercession, the Apostles feel perfect Contrition for their sins and renewed love for their Master and become inflamed with new fervor and strengthened with new grace. Grant, Lord, that when I turn away from you, that I may always say nunc coepi such that guilt may give way to an ever more perfect love and desire for You. 

Then, that glorious day comes when Mary Magdalene rushes in with news of Jesus’ Resurrection. They don’t believe her at first and Peter and John run to the tomb to check. It is not until later that day that Jesus appears to them in the Upper Room. There, in the very room where they first received the Eucharist, Jesus came and stood in their midst saying, “Peace be with you.” At the sight of the Risen Lord, their grief and sorrow is transmuted into ineffable joy and bliss.

As He shows them His hands and side, they rejoice and praise God, overwhelmed at the sight of hope fulfilled. In their humanity, they are shocked and overcome to see Jesus in front of them, their friend and greatest companion! As he opens their minds to the Scriptures, their hearts nearly burst with gratitude in wonder. Some drop to their knees, others prostrate themselves before Him. All are astonished and overwhelmed with utter gratitude and wonder that in Christ’s fulfillment of His mission for our salvation, that we too can hope to one day share in His Resurrection and be totally and completely reconciled and united to God for all eternity.   

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” The Apostles are enraptured as they receive the Holy Spirit. There, in the Upper Room, they are in Adoration; they kneel in a mystical exchange with the Lord, sharing unspoken words of gratitude and love, of repentance and mercy, of awe and joy. When Jesus departs from them, the first twinges of sorrow over the sudden separation change into profound happiness as they contemplate the reality of the Resurrection. 

That night, as they assemble for prayer, the Apostles can not help feeling troubled again because they missed Jesus so keenly. They look around at one another helplessly, like lost children. Then, in turning to Our Mother, they see how perfectly calm and confident she is. She smiles in encouragement and they remember that Jesus had told them always to go to her when they were troubled for she would ever be for all of them a mother and a protectress. She inspires them to joy and the mood in the room moves to excitement as the Apostles pray and quote scriptural prophecies concerning the resurrection of the Messiah. They are on fire, praying for the strength to act in obedience to His will. 

The Apostles feel an immense reverence for John as he was the only one who accompanied Jesus to Calvary1. As the Apostles returned one by one to the Upper Room, John showed them only love and kindness. So when some of the disciples become frustrated and angry with Thomas’ doubts and obstinacy, John directs them to speak with Mary who assures them that Thomas’ disbelief would, in the end, bring great benefit to others and glory to God. 

There, in the very room where Jesus and his Apostles gathered together for the final time before His Passion, the new Church begins. Those in the Upper Room spend more and more time in contemplation and in community, praising and adoring God. Unceasingly, they pray and fast for each other and for the spread of the new Church. The disciples evermore clearly see Mary as a spiritual mother, strengthened to follow her example of total offering of oneself with ardent love as a faithful and obedient servant of the Divine will.

1 The Prophecies and Revelations of Saint Bridget of Sweden. Germany, Jazzybee Verlag, 2012. Chapter 21.

 Brown, Raphael. The Life of Mary As Seen by the Mystics. United States, TAN Books, 1991. Chapter 32.

Ibid, Chapter 33.