Sunday, 1 March 2015

The Glory of the Mountain

10 Minute Daily Retreat - Read the Daily Gospel with a prayerful heart.
By Susanne Timpani (No.84)    

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John and led them up a high mountain on their own by themselves. There in their presence he was transfigured:  his clothes became brilliantly white, whiter than any earthly bleacher could make them. 

Elijah appeared to them with Moses; and they were talking to Jesus. Then Peter spoke to Jesus, 'Rabbi,' he said, 'it is wonderful for us to be here; so let us make three shelters, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.' He did not know what to say; they were so frightened. 

And a cloud came, covering them in shadow; and from the cloud there came a voice, 'This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to him.'  Then suddenly, when they looked round, they saw no one with them anymore but only Jesus. 

As they were coming down from the mountain he warned them to tell no one what they had seen, until after the Son of man had risen from the dead. They observed the warning faithfully, though among themselves they discussed what 'rising from the dead' could mean.(Mark 9:2-8)

'We are face to face with an incident in the life of Jesus that is cloaked in mystery. We can only try to understand. Mark says that this happened six days after the incidents near Caesarea Philippi. Luke says that it happened eight days afterwards. There is no discrepancy here. They both mean what we might express by saying, "About a week afterwards." Both the Eastern and the Western Churches hold their remembrance of the transfiguration on 6th August. It does not matter whether or not that is the actual date, but it is a time we do well to remember.

Tradition says that the transfiguration took place on the top of Mount Tabor
The Eastern Church actually calls the Festival of the Transfiguration the Taborion. It may be that the choice is based on the mention of Mount Tabor in Ps.89:12, but it is unfortunate. Tabor is in the south of Galilee and Caesarea Philippi is away to the north. Tabor is no more than 1,000 feet high, and, in the time of Jesus, there was a fortress on the top.

It is much more likely that this event took place amidst the eternal snows of Mount Hermon which is 9,200 feet high and much nearer Caesarea Philippi and where the solitude would be much more complete.

What happened we cannot tell. We can only bow in reverence as we try to understand. Mark tells us that the garments of Jesus became radiant. The word he uses 'stilbein,' is the word used for the glistening gleam of burnished brass or gold or of polished steel or of the golden glare of the sunlight. When the incident came to an end a cloud overshadowed them.

In Jewish thought the presence of God is regularly connected with the cloud. It was in the cloud that Moses met God. It was in the cloud that God came to the Tabernacle. It was the cloud which rifled the Temple when it was dedicated after Solomon had built it. And it was the dream of the Jews that when the Messiah came the cloud of God's presence would return to the Temple. (Exo.16:10, Exo.19:9, Exo.33:9, 1Kgs.8:10, 2Macc.2:8.) 

The descent of the cloud is a way of saying that the Messiah had come, and any Jew would understand it like that.

It made [the Disciples] in a special sense witnesses of the glory of Christ. 
A witness has been defined as a man who first sees and then shows. This time on the mountain had shown them the glory of Christ, and now they had the story of this glory to hide in their hearts and to tell to men, not at the moment, but when the time came.'

Susanne Timpani
5 minutes: READ the text slowly.
REFLECT on a phrase or word that struck you.
SPEAK to God about your thoughts.
5 minutes: LISTEN to God speak to you.
RESPOND with a prayer that feels right for you.

Next Reflection: Colin Sutton  Wednesday 4th March, 2015