authored by Br. Leland Thorpe, OMV
Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them. – Mark 9:2
The first time that I saw the Alps, I was floored.
We had arrived at our hotel in Lucerne on a foggy evening, after sunset. In the growing dark, visibility was next to zero. But the next morning when I came down to eat breakfast, it was a clear, crisp day, and the hotel restaurant’s floor-to-ceiling windows gave me an unimpeded view of the mountains shining in full glory.
I had no idea that anything in this world could look so majestic.
I was absolutely stunned, lost in wonder, and I found myself thinking, “So that’s why the Greeks thought the gods lived up on the mountains.”
There’s just something innate in human psychology that causes us to see mountains as sacred places, places to encounter the divine. We observe this in the ancient pagan religions, but we also see this in Jewish thought.
Now, since the Incarnation, we know that we don’t need to go somewhere special to find God. Anything truly human can be an occasion to encounter Him.
But still, there are times that He calls us to go apart, to a special place. In the Old Testament we see Moses and Elijah ascending Mt. Sinai to encounter God. Sometimes, in dramatic ways: for Moses, God came in fire and blaring trumpets and thunder and lightning. For Elijah, God wasn’t in any of that – He was in the silence.
Jesus, in His earthly life, continues this. On many occasions He takes His disciples away, up to a high mountain, as we see in the story of the Transfiguration.
When I was growing up, we talked about “mountain-top experiences” as a way of expressing a special experience of God’s love, usually including feelings of great fervor and enthusiasm for the faith. I’ve always imagined that this expression was in reference to the story of the Transfiguration.
But there are other “mountain-top experiences” we can have. Sometimes Jesus takes us up the Mount of Olives where He wept when He looked over Jerusalem. Sometimes we go, not to the top of the Mount of Olives, but to the base, to the Garden of Gethsemane, to be with Jesus in His agony. Sometimes He even asks us to go up Mount Calvary with Him, to be with Him when He is on the Cross.
All of these can in fact be occasions of consolation. St. Ignatius of Loyola tells us that consolation is any experience when we find ourselves set on fire with love of God – or, when we’re moved with sadness and sorrow and contrition for our sins, even to the point of tears – or, any increase in faith, hope, and love – or, any experience of deep peace. Anything that draws us to be with God, and to desire to be with Him, is an experience of consolation – even in His suffering, perhaps even on the Cross. It is this God-given desire that matters.
This is the invitation I’ve sensed this Lent, and maybe it is for you as well: that we pray for the desire to be with Jesus in all things, no matter what, even as our Lenten journey takes us to Calvary and to the Cross; the desire to be with Jesus for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us unite, perfectly and eternally.