The spiritual encounter of the Apostles in the upper room is known as the original site of the Pentecost since the fourth century AD. It Is also known as the Cenacle. Cenacle is a derivative of the Latin word that means I dine.
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According to Catholics, it is located in the southern part of the Old City of Jerusalem on Mount Zion, the King David’s Tomb compound. It went on to become the first Christian Church.
It was in the upper room the Last Supper took place. Jesus ate with His apostles, introduced the New Covenant in His blood, gave them His last sermon and encouragement, and prayed His “high priestly prayer” over them.
In the Cenacle, Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, a task normally performed by the lowest, most menial slave. By this simple act, Jesus reminded them that His followers are those who serve one another, not those who expect to be served, which represents the ministry of loving service and marks the beginning of a loving friendship with Jesus.
In this same place, the disciples gathered with Mary and prayed for the coming of the Holy Spirit after the death of Jesus (John 20:19; John 20:20; John 20:21; John 20:22; John 20:23).
As one can see, many activities happened in the upper room. And as with everything Christ does, there is a deeper meaning. The apostles spent days in the upper room.
Jesus appeared, both before and after the resurrection, and He made himself visible to see and touch after He had risen.
This is the room in which the Holy Spirit came down upon the eleven apostles on Pentecost.
After Jesus rose from death, He breathed on the apostles the Holy Spirit (John 20:19).
The apostles received the tongues of fire, and “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:4).
That event marks the Church’s birthday in the presence of our Blessed Mother (Acts 1:14).
It is from there that the apostles went forth with boldness sharing the Good News.
It is viewed that the baptism with the Holy Spirit, which occurred on the Day of Pentecost, is a second work of the Spirit; this assumes that the disciples had earlier failed to ask for the Holy Spirit as Jesus had commanded them. Luke 11:13 (KJ it can therefore be argued that their reception of the Spirit of God at that particular time was due to their lack of asking for Him).
The Significance of The Upper Room to The Early Church
The upper room was foundational in the formation of the early Church. The use of the upper room is established by Old Testament practice, cradled by early Christian doctrine, and acted as the springboard for the spread of early Christianity.
Even though there is debate if there is a single or many upper rooms, what remains clear is that it was the location where union with God and others could be achieved.
The upper room held great significance to the early Church as it seemed to be a place for the Church’s founders to congregate, especially during her formative years.
This includes events that form the backbone of Christianity, such as the Last Supper, where the New Covenant was instituted, and the Eucharist was first celebrated, and Pentecost, where the Holy Spirit descended.
The upper room also proved to be the place of various meetings and miracles, which strengthened and encouraged the faith of early Christians, proving to be a place conducive to a meeting in fellowship and in prayer, which are crucial elements of the Christian faith.
From the Old Testament, the ‘upper room’ was usually a room that was built on the roof of houses and was used as a place of prayer to entreat God’s power. It was so essential to those of the Jewish faith that even the poor kept such a room furnished so that guests could be welcomed.
There are several examples in the Old Testament of an upper room being used.
An example of the upper room being used as a place of prayer and worship occurs in the story of Daniel, where he retreats to his upper room to pray, as it was his custom, even when a decree is put out to kill those who worship anyone besides the king.
This is also seen in the book of Tobit, where Sarah goes to her upper room crying and supplicating to the Lord in despair, with her prayers even being answered there.
Examples of the use of the upper room in imploring God’s power can be seen in the miracles performed by Elijah and Elisha in raising the widow and Shunammite’s sons, respectively.
Therefore, it is clear that an upper room was common amongst the people of Israel and that it was considered a place of retreat and prayer and a place where God’s power was shown.
Key elements of the Christian doctrine have found their roots in the upper room.
One of the key events of the early Church that occurred in an upper room was the Last Supper with Jesus and His disciples, instrumental members of the early Church, being present.
It states in the gospels of Mark and Luke that there was a large upper room that was furnished and prepared for the Passover, which the Lord asked to use.
It was here that the Lord washed the disciple’s feet, providing for them a model for Christian service, which would prove to be a defining characteristic of the early Church, continuing to communities such as those established by St Basil.
Sacrament of the Eucharist
Another key aspect of early Christianity established in the upper room during the Last Supper was the Sacrament of the Eucharist, considered to be the pinnacle of Christian worship and the center-thought of many early Christian writers.
St Paul describes appropriate decorum when partaking of the Eucharist in his epistle to the Corinthians, showing the early Church would meet together to partake in it.
Its importance is also clear in the inclusion of the Eucharist, alongside the rituals of baptism, in the Didache, a document describing some of the practices of the early Church, and it is being described by St Justin Martyr in his ‘First Apology.’
St Ignatius, an Apostolic father, highlights the Eucharist’s significance to the early Church in his epistle to Smyrna by stating that a bishop is celebrating the Eucharist, surrounded by the faithful.
There the fullness of the Church is present. Therefore, we see that the upper room was the site of an event that was a fundamental element of the early Church.
The Roots of Pentecost
Because Pentecost is the day on which the Apostles and the Blessed Virgin Mary received the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we tend to think of it as an exclusively Christian feast. But like many Christian feasts, including Easter, Pentecost has its roots in Jewish religious tradition.
The Jewish Pentecost fell on the 50th day after Passover, and it celebrated the giving of the law to Moses on Mount Sinai. It was also, as Fr. John Hardon notes in his Modern Catholic Dictionary, the day on which “the first fruits of the corn harvest were offered to the Lord” by Deuteronomy 16:9.
Just as Easter is the Christian Passover, celebrating the release of humanity from the bondage of sin through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Christian Pentecost celebrates the fulfillment of the Mosaic law in a Christian life led through the grace of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus Sends His Holy Spirit
Before He returned to His Father in Heaven at the Ascension, Jesus told His disciples that He would send His Holy Spirit as their comforter and guide, and He ordered them not to leave Jerusalem. After Christ ascended into Heaven, the disciples returned to the upper room and spent ten days praying.
On the tenth day: “Suddenly, there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim”.
Filled with the Holy Spirit, they began to preach the Gospel of Christ to Jews “from every nation under heaven” who were gathered in Jerusalem for the Jewish feast of Pentecost.
Conclusion The Spiritual Encounter of the Apostles in the Upper Room
The spiritual encounter of the apostles in the upper room, in the Christian tradition, the room was not only the site of the Last Supper (i.e., the Cenacle) but the room in which the Holy Spirit descended upon the eleven apostles after Pentecost.
It is sometimes thought to be the place where the apostles stayed in Jerusalem.
In short, “The upper room” represents a place of prayer. A secret quiet time and place that you prepare and set aside for the habitation of your Lord and Master.