Dear Good People of Saint Mary,
Greetings from the Holy Land. We have prayed for you everywhere we go, all this weekend we are in the city of Jerusalem and include you in our pilgrimage to the Mount of Olives, Gethsemane, House of Caiafas, the Way of the Cross, Calvary and Jesus’ empty tomb.
As I write this letter it is Tuesday evening, my room looks out at the Sea of Galilee. This afternoon we took local minibuses to the top of Mount Tabor where Jesus is transfigured appearing with Elijah and Moses, in front of Peter, James and John. On the mountaintop is a beautiful last-century basilica with perfectly maintained architecture, art and glass by the Holy Land Franciscans. The altar in the sanctuary at the heart of the church is built directly above the crown of rock where the event took place. We 30 gathered around the main altar and the space came to life.
I noticed a remarkable acoustical quality that seemed to magnify our sounds as we sang and proclaimed the Word of God and prayed the acclamations. The sound in the lower sanctuary seemed to multiply and fill the upper church above us with a kind of infinite brightness that seemed to emanate, radiate from that altar to the entire church.
I began to imagine on that day the brightness of Christ “like the sun” and that full, fecund sound of the Father’s voice the moment it happened, first and always. I considered the nature of light and sound as it crosses space and never ends, I prayed that our light and our sound might join with that ancient glory showing in the sacred humanity of Christ and that creation-causing sound of God that still shows and echoes today in his universes– both in original form and first-time, new in us. That blast of glory still echoing came back around again on Mount Tabor today, as at every exalted altar, and in every heart who climbs to witness it, in all places known to us, and even in the silent reaches where no one has gone or been able to go to experience it. The glory of God surrounds us and permeates us. Once spoken, it exists forever that it might be heard. If not today, then tomorrow.
The event of Mount Tabor is sometimes compared to those peak moments in people’s lives when the real light finally comes on, God is encountered, we are changed, converted, transfigured; we can never go back to whom we were once before after we have experienced the heights of these thin places near to God.
But it doesn’t have to be the encounter of vastness. I have included here a photo of the view from the top of Mount Tabor. The Jezreel Valley (“Armageddon”) unfolds in front of us. We can see the mountains of Samaria to the south, Haifa to the west, Nazareth just to the north and Lebanon beyond. It seems like a forever vision. But consider how that equal infinity, the limitlessness of the infinite in the plan of God, is also found within. Take an inch, divide it by two, again by two… You can divide endlessly though the parts are endlessly, impossibly small. In the same way that light and sound of God broke forth from the mountaintop, it enters and permeates us infinitely within. I imagine we are more perfectly transfigured in this way, not merely in awe of the sheer expanse.
One thing for sure: he still shines and he still speaks. May we see, and hear.
God bless you.