In the middle of the Gospel of St. John, in the middle of the long final conversations of Christ with His disciples, there is an enigmatic sentence. What does He mean with these words?
“Rise, let us go hence.” (John 14:31)
Thereafter, as if this sentence had never been spoken, the river of words flows on until finally the moment has come when He does indeed rise, and goes together with his disciples to Gethsemane, the place of treason. That too is a form of going hence, to meet death. But the fact that this enigmatic sentence was pronounced much earlier means that Christ also meant something else. In the knowledge that the darkest night on earth had come, He says: “Rise, let us go hence.” What He means is: Whatever happens in my life, I will rise and walk the way that is my destiny.
The chapters that follow in the Gospel of St. John tell us what this means for us. In each of those chapters, until the God-forsakenness on the cross, sound the questions:
Who rises together with me?
Who goes hence together with me?
Who remains connected with me, as the branch with the vine?
Who prays with me in the hour of my temptation?
Who stands by me in the hour of my death?
And although there was no one who remained standing in Gethsemane, no one who could stand by Him in His God-forsakenness, we can try, stumbling and groping, to walk this way even now. Each day of our life asks us to rise, to leave behind what was familiar and precious to us, not to give up, but to say Yes to life—whatever life asks of us. Whoever is ready to go this way, walks with Christ who summons us, every day:
“RISE, LET US GO HENCE.”
In a modestly human way, the author Hermann Hesse expressed this summons in his poem
As every blossom wilts and youth gives way to age,
So blooms each stage of life, blooms every virtue
And all wisdom in their own right time
And may not last forever.
With every call of life, the heart must be prepared
To say ‘Farewell’ and start again,
Courageously, and without sadness, entwine in other lives.
In every new beginning a special magic lies
Protecting us, and helping us to live.
We are to stride from realm to realm with joy,
To none cling as we would to home;
The spirit of the world does not constrain nor fetter us,
But seeks to lift us up from step to step, expanding.
And should we yield to comforts of our home,
We are in danger to be slackers.
Only those ready to depart and travel
May rid themselves of paralysing habits.
And even the hour of death may send us,
Young again, to test new realms.
Life’s call to us will never end…
So heart, take leave and flourish!
(Translation: Christiane Landowne)