The Mountain of God
By Phillip Baker
“When Christ appears we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (cf. 1 Jn 3:2).
Mountains, in Scripture, are places of encounter with God. Moses went up Sinai and saw the Glory of the Lord, and the Glory of the Lord passed by Elijah, hid in a cleft on Mount Horeb (cf. Ex 24:12-18, 1 Kgs 19:9-18). When Jesus goes up Mount Tabor, there is a theophany, or a self-revealing of God. The Luminous mysteries reflect on, to some extent, revelations of Who Jesus is – He is God’s Beloved Son, the Bridegroom Who provides new wine in abundance, the long-awaited King of Israel, and here, in the Transfiguration, He shows us that He is God Himself. On Tabor, Jesus reveals that He possesses the glory proper to God – this is what Luke means when he says the Apostles “saw His glory” (Lk 9:32).
Jesus is God, “the fountain of life” in Whose light “we see light” (Ps 38:10). That light changes and transfigures us, fixes and transforms us in God; that light is Jesus, “the true light, which enlightens everyone,” for “what came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race” (Jn 1:9, 3-4). Jesus reveals Himself as God, sharing in the fullness of glory proper to God alone. He exudes light and life, and in His light He shows us the pathways of His commandments and changes us to be like Him.
For Jesus is not just another Moses, nor is He just another prophet. Rather, He Who is transfigured in a cloud on the mountaintop is the same One Who gave Moses the Law from a cloud on Sinai. He Who is speaking to Elijah is the One Who passed Elijah by on Horeb. He is God and God with us, God become Man. Therefore, He is not a distant and unsympathetic God. The god who makes the world and abandons it to run on its own is a definitively non-Christian misconception, for this God of ours is one Who touches His frightened disciples and says “Rise, and do not be afraid” before leading them down into the plain (Mt 17:7). Jesus is God, and He is our Lover, Who stays with us, even as He leads us unto the Cross. Jesus prepares His apostles for “His exodus,” wherein He will free us from slavery to sin. By showing them His glory in this moment, He reassures them that His Passion will end with His glorification (Lk 9:31).
That message is the same for us. Our Lord, our Love, gives us a message of hope in this mystery: the journey up the mountain is hard, but, if we ascend the mount of Calvary with Him – if we “deny [ourselves] and take up [our] crosses daily” – we will see His glory (Lk 9:23). Not only that, but we will see that glory He revealed to His apostles on Tabor and share in it ourselves. For the Lamb is the light of the City of God, and His people “will look upon His face… night will be no more, nor will they need light from lamp or sun, for the Lord God shall give them light,” the light of the Son (Rev 22:4-5).
Transfigured in Trinitarian Love
By Gretchen Erlichman
“About eight days after he said this, he took Peter, John, and James and went up the mountain to pray.While he was praying his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white.” ~Luke 9:28-29
The Transfiguration, though veiled in mystery, sheds great light on our sharing in Christ’s glory. By Christ’s Incarnation, Passion, and Resurrection – which all coalesce in the greatest act of love – we are invited to partake in the transformative grace of Baptism, by which we come to dwell within the love of the Trinity. The Catechism of the Catholic Church brings to our attention the way in which Christ’s own life reflects this mingling of mystery and love: “On the threshold of the public life: the baptism; on the threshold of the Passover: the Transfiguration. Jesus’ baptism proclaimed “the mystery of the first regeneration”, namely, our Baptism; the Transfiguration “is the sacrament of the second regeneration”: our own Resurrection. From now on we share in the Lord’s Resurrection through the Spirit who acts in the sacraments of the Body of Christ. The Transfiguration gives us a foretaste of Christ’s glorious coming, when he ‘will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body.’” (CCC 556 ) St. Thomas beautifully details how the Holy Trinity was made wonderfully manifest in this mystery: “The whole Trinity appeared: the Father in the voice; the Son in the man; the Spirit in the shining cloud.” (ST III, 45, 4, ad 2.) Christ “went up the mountain to pray,” taking Peter, James, and John, and His glory as the Second Person of the Trinity was sensibly made known to them; they were given a foretaste of the sweetness of this love of the Trinity. So too, in our faithful witness to the truth of this mystery, we can begin to taste the sweetness of the spiritual life by uniting our hearts to this Trinitarian love through prayer.
At the Transfiguration, Christ ascended the mountain, away from the chaos of the crowds and the exhaustion of preaching, and entered into the silence and solitude of prayer in manifest union with the whole of the Trinity. We are also invited into this union of Love and are given the opportunity to be transformed, if we but only retreat from our frenzied existence and rest in the simplicity of the Lord. In a homily on the mystery of the Transfiguration, St. Augustine reflects on how Peter must have reacted to the sweetness of this restful love in comparison to the bitter-sweet activity of his apostolate: “He had been wearied with the multitude, he had found now the mountain’s solitude; there he had Christ the Bread of the soul.” (St. Augustine, Homily on the Transfiguration) In prayer, when we seclude ourselves from the diversions of the world and enter into the contemplation of spiritual goods, we begin to taste the love of God, which is true food for our souls; we become satiated by the love of the Trinity. Let us then pray for the grace and the strength to go “up the mountain to pray.” Let us follow in the footsteps of Christ so that, when, by His grace, we reach the precipice, we may be transformed by the love of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
COME PRAY WITH US!
“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them.” ~Matthew 18:20
Right now, more than ever, we called to come together as a Church to pray and to engage with the beautiful mysteries of our Catholic faith. As a response to this invitation, we are launching a weekly prayer and discussion group called Quarantine Conversations, which will follow the theme of the reflections of the Quarantine Contemplation series. Each week, we will meet on Friday evenings at 6:30pm CST/7:30pm EST to pray a decade of the Rosary followed by a short reflection and time for discussion. Please join us for all or part of these meetings, so that we may join our hearts in praise of our glorious Creator!
(After signing up, you will receive an email with more information about how to download Zoom and information about receiving weekly links to connect to the Quarantine Conversations.)
Hi! My name is Gretchen Erlichman, and I am an aspirant with the Dominican Nuns of the Monastery of Our Lady of Grace in North Guilford, Connecticut. I am a native of upstate New York, but I am currently residing in Silver Spring, Maryland. I am in my second 6-month fundraising period with the Labouré Society, in which I hope to mitigate my student loans and enter into religious formation. Watch My Video Read My Story Donate Contact
Hi! My name is Phillip Baker and I am an aspirant with the Dominican Friars of the Province of St. Joseph (Eastern Province). I am a native of Nashville, Tennessee, where I currently reside as I work to pay off student loan debt from my time at Syracuse University. This is my first 6-month class with the Labouré Society, and I anticipate entrance to religious life with the Friars this July.
Watch My Video Read My Story Donate Contact