Fr. Campbell, "God’s Holy Mountain"
We meet Jesus today gloriously transfigured on the holy mountain, said to be Mount Tabor, conversing with Moses and Elias about His coming sufferings, in the presence of His apostles, Peter, James, and John. God had spoken from the cloud at Mount Sinai. Here at Mount Tabor He would affirm the authority of His divine Son, the new Moses: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear him.”
Jesus often went up into the hills and mountaintops to pray. Soon after this incident He would pray on Mount Olivet the night before He suffered, “Father, if thou art willing, remove this cup from me; yet not my will but thine be done” (Lk.22:42). And on Mount Calvary He would sacrifice His life for the sins of the world.
In praying on the hills and mountains, Jesus was following a long-established tradition. The ancients believed that they were closer to God on the hills and mountains. There they went to offer sacrifice, and there they built their temples.
Abraham, called by God to sacrifice his son, Isaac, set up an altar for the sacrifice on Mount Moriah. God, of course, only testing Abraham’s obedience, provided a lamb for the sacrifice.
Moses encountered God in the burning bush on Mount Sinai. There he received from God the Ten Commandments, and announced the covenant between God and His chosen people.
Elias, whose name is associated with Mount Carmel, walked for forty days and forty nights on the strength of food provided by and angel, to converse with God on Mount Horeb, which St. Jerome believed was Mount Sinai.
The official place of worship for the Hebrews was established when King David brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, and placed it in a tent on Mount Sion. Later, his son, Solomon built the Temple there.
Some of the most beautiful psalms, such as Psalm 83 (84), expressed the desire of the people of God for His dwelling place on Mount Sion, which the Church sees as symbolic of the longing of the soul for the courts of heaven:
“How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! My soul yearns and pines for the courts of the Lord. My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest in which she puts her young – your altars, O Lord of hosts, my king and my God!” (Ps.83:1-4).
Mount Sion, however, was not to be the permanent site of God’s holy Temple. Jesus had already remarked to the woman at the well in Samaria: “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain (Mount Gerizim) nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know, we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth” (Jn.4:21-23).
The true Temple, as Jesus Himself affirmed (Jn.2:19) would henceforth be the Body of Christ, the presence of which on earth is the holy Catholic Church, the new Mount Sion, the spiritual Jerusalem. The true act of worship would henceforth be offered “through him, with him, in him,” in the holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The true worshippers would be those who would believe in Jesus as their Messiah and Lord, those signed with the seal of the Triune God through baptism, and fed with “living Bread” at the altar of the Lord.
We find Jesus once more, transfigured and glorious, clothed in the resplendent garment of the Traditional Latin Mass, which Fr. Faber called “the most beautiful thing this side of heaven.” Many today fail to see Him in the poor rags of the “novus ordo” rite, and are wandering in the darkness without hope. We pray for them, and for all who yearn in their hearts for the courts of the Lord.
But indeed, as St. Paul says, admonishing us not to be like the unbelievers:
“There remains therefore a Sabbath Rest for the people of God. For he who has entered into his Rest, has himself also rested from his own works, even as God did from his. Let us therefore hasten to enter into that Rest, lest anyone fall by following the same example of unbelief” (Heb.4:9-11).
We have many “examples of unbelief” in these days, when we can’t even look to a Holy Father who keeps the Faith of the Church and guides us safely to the Sabbath Rest of Heaven. May God soon restore the papacy and provide safe guidance for us once more. In the meantime, we keep the “Faith of Our Fathers” handed down to us from the beginning. We dare not follow where Francis leads, as our Lord warns us:
“Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. Let them alone; they are blind guides of blind men. But if a blind man guide a blind man, both fall into a pit” (Mt.15:13,14).
In the presence of the living God and His divine Son, our glorious Lord, let us be filled with the holy fear and the firm faith of Peter, James and John, as we pray these words from the Act of Faith,
“O my God! I firmly believe… these and all the truths which the Holy Catholic Church believes and teaches, because Thou hast revealed them, Who canst neither deceive nor be deceived. Amen.”