On mountain tops

View from the top of Montserrat, Catalonia

I love mountains. I get a real feeling of exhilaration when I am on one, expecially if it is a clear day when you can see for miles around. The photo above was taken above the monastery at Montserrat in Spain on my Ignatian pilgrimage, on a glorious November afternoon, and I really had to drag myself away when it was time to go. But when clouds and mists come down, mountains can also be quite dangerous places to be, especially if you don’t know them well.

This Sunday’s Gospel reading sees Jesus taking three selected disciples up a mountain, and when they reach the top mysterious and frightening things happen – so much so that the disciples really don;t know what to make of it all. But as Mark tells this story, all sorts of resonances are set up in the minds of those who know the Biblical stories – resonances of other encounters on mountain-tops. Here’s a poem to help us think about these:

Mountain-tops are significant places.
Mountain-tops are where arks come to rest
after floods, to renew the face of the earth.
Mountain-tops are where laws are given
and covenants made
and remade when broken by sin on the valley floor.

Mountain-tops are where false prophets and priests
are confronted and challenged and shown to be so.
Mountain-tops are where God passes by in the thunderstorms and lightning
and speaks afterwards in a still, small voice.
Mountain-tops are where temples are built and tribes go up
to worship and make offerings to their Maker.

Mountain-tops are where temptations come
after forty days of fasting – where kingdoms are offered,
if only … NO!
Mountain-tops are where temptations may be overcome.
Mountain-tops are where Messiahs are transfigured,
where the curtain is lifted if just for a moment
and reality becomes real
and Saviours converse with law-givers and prophets
and the sudden urge to build shelters comes on
mortal men and God tells them to listen.

Mountains-tops are where Saviours are crucified
held up to scorn and brutally murdered, where powers that be
think that their problems are solved – little do they know.
Mountain-tops are where risen Lords
commission others to continue their work
and reproduce throughout the world
with the promise of their presence.

Mountain-tops are where Lords and Saviours
ascend to their Father and where angels
promise that they will come again.

Listen, but
don’t stand staring on mountain-tops because
mountain-tops are significant places.

Happy Transfiguration Sunday!

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