To the Mountain of the Lord
The prophet Isaiah says that, “It shall come to pass in the latter days, that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say, ‘Come let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob’” (Is 2:1-3).
The house of the Lord is no longer the tent of meeting pitched by Moses in the desert (Ex 33:7), the tent upon which descended the pillar of cloud (Ex 33:9), the tent wherein the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend (Ex 33:11). We heard, in the second reading of the Vigil, that “everyone who sought the Lord would go out to the tent of meeting” (Ex 33:7). Moses used to come out of his ineffable conversations with the Lord so transfigured and radiant that he was obliged to cover his face with a veil, for the skin of his face shone with the glory of the Lord (Ex 35:33-35). The tent of meeting in the desert, set up according the prescriptions of the Lord, was but a figure and foreshadowing of the mystery we celebrate today.
In the tent of meeting we discern, “as in a mirror dimly” (1 Cor 13:12), an obscure and mysterious revelation of the adorable Trinity. The tent prefigures the Body of Christ, the true, abiding, and indestructible place of meeting between God and man. Everyone who seeks the Father must go out to the new tent of meeting, that is, the Body of Christ, for he himself says, “No one comes to the Father, but by me” (Jn 14:6).
In the tent, Moses heard the voice of the Lord speaking to him mouth to mouth (Num 12:8), the same voice that, in the beginning, had uttered, “Let there be light” (Gen 1:3). At the sound of the voice of the Lord, something of old Adam stirred deep inside Moses, and he remembered the voice that, in the garden, had called so gently, “Where are you?” (Gen 3:9).
Moses beheld the pillar of cloud hovering over the tent (Ex 33:9). Something of old Adam stirred deep inside him, and he remembered the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day (Gen 3:8), in the breath of a gentle evening breeze.
Behold the tent, behold the voice, behold the cloud! Are we to look upon such mysteries and fail to see a dark and veiled epiphany of the Three calling us into the communion of their divine life? The tent points to Christ, the voice to the Father, the cloud to the Holy Spirit.
But before the full revelation of the mystery in the light of Thabor, the tent had to become the Temple. The voice made itself heard again, this time to Solomon, saying, “Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place. For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that my name may be there for ever; my eyes and my heart will be there for all time” (2 Chr 7:15-16).
Solomon beheld the glory of the Lord filling the temple. “The house of the Lord was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God” (2 Chr 5:13-14). The children of Israel “saw the fire come down and the glory of the Lord upon the temple, and they bowed down with their faces to the earth on the pavement, and worshiped, and gave thanks to the Lord” (2 Chr 7:3).
Here again, we see the temple, the place of meeting between God and man. Again, we hear the voice and in it, we already recognize the accents of the voice of the Father on Mount Tabor saying, “This is my Son, the beloved; listen to him” (Mk 9:7). Again, we see the bright cloud of the Holy Spirit suffusing the temple with an unearthly splendor—with the very brightness of the Kingdom—and causing all who fall beneath its shadow to fall prostrate on the pavement to adore.
Elijah too had his obscure and mysterious epiphany of the Three, not in the great and strong wind, not in the earthquake, not in the fire, but in the still, small voice, the gentle breeze that came to him at the entrance to the cave (1 K 19:9-14). Here, the meeting place between God and man is the cave, foreshadowing that other cleft in the rock, the Heart of Jesus pierced by the soldier’s lance (Jn 19:34). And the Lord, the God of hosts, spoke to Elijah. The voice, the open rock, the gentle breeze: the image of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
The Transfigured Body of Christ
Today the sacred liturgy has us ascend the mountain of the Lord. For the tent of meeting, the temple, and the cleft in the rock, we are given the transfigured Body of Christ. We gaze upon him through the eyes of the prophet Daniel, eyes that see in visions by night. His raiment is white as snow, the hair of his head is like pure wool, and his throne is of flames of fire (Dan 7:9). We gaze upon him, “with unveiled face” (2 Cor 3:18), through the eyes of Peter, James, and John. He is transfigured before them, his garments are glistening, intensely white (Mk 9:3), and his face shines like the sun (Mt 17:2). We gaze upon him through the eyewitness account of Peter, a memory burned sweetly, indelibly, into his mind and heart (2 P 1:16-19). And, according to his own commandment (Mk 14:22; Mt 26:26), we “take and eat” the glorious body of the transfigured Jesus, the body which Peter, James, and John beheld from without, falling on their faces and filled with awe, that, by partaking of the Body of Christ as food, we may be transfigured from within, ourselves becoming the Body of Christ.
The Cloud of the Holy Spirit
For the pillar of cloud, for the glory which filled the temple, for the gentle breeze that caressed the face of Elijah, we are given the Holy Spirit to hover over our assembly today, to cover us with his overshadowing that we ourselves might become, by the invocation of his mysterious action—the epiclesis—and by partaking of the Eucharist, the very Body of Christ. We are given the Holy Spirit who penetrates into the secret recesses of our being, making us his temple, allowing our hearts to become nothing less than true “tents of meeting” with the Father, whom, by the Holy Spirit of sonship, we call Abba (Rom 8:15), in Christ.
The Voice of the Father
The voice of the Father, full of power, the voice of the Father, full of splendor (Ps 28:4), the voice that, in the beginning, said “Let there be light,” (Gen 1:3), the voice that spoke to Adam, saying, “Where are you?” (Gen 3:9), the voice that spoke to Moses and to Elijah on Mount Horeb, is today addressed to us. The voice of the Father draws our eyes to the holy Face of Jesus; “This is my Son” (Mk 9:7). The voice of the Father directs our hearts to the Bridegroom; “This is my Son, the Beloved” (Mk 9:7). The voice of the Father draws us into the mystery of sonship by which we are healed, justified, restored, and sanctified; “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased” (Mt 17:5).
The Father’s voice commands us to incline the ear of our hearts
— to the Son, that we may be sons and daughters in the Son;
— to the Beloved, that we may discover ourselves to be the cherished Bride, and the object of all his tenderness and desire;
— to the One in whom he is well pleased, that we may draw from him all life and holiness, and that the beauty of likeness may be restored to the image in which we were made (Gen 1:26).
On Mount Tabor
We are on Tabor. We are eyewitnesses of his majesty (2 P 1:16), seeing not with the eyes of flesh but the eyes of faith, “as in a mirror” (2 Cor 3:18). Like Saint Peter we can say, “we heard this voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain” (1 P 1:18). We have “the prophetic word made more sure,” (1 P 1:19), the word to which we shall cling when, leaving this place where it is good to be (Mk 9:5), we shall come down
the mountain and be faced, no less than Jesus and the apostles, with the harsh realities of failure, frustration, and rivalry (cf. . After last night’s long vigil of corporate, liturgical lectio divina, we know, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that we do well to pay attention to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns, and the morning star rises in our hearts (1 P 1:19). We know now that “no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (1 P 1:20).
Baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ, nourished by the sacred mysteries of his life-giving Body and precious Blood, we are the Body of Christ, the tent of meeting, the temple, and the bride. The bright cloud of the Holy Spirit overshadows us in this and in every celebration of the holy mysteries. To us the Father speaks. Like Peter, James, and John, we would fall on our faces, for we, like them, are filled with awe. But, as we shall sing in the Magnificat antiphon at Vespers this evening, Jesus comes to us, as he did to them; he touches us, saying, “Rise, and have no fear” (Mt 17:7). Let us lift up our eyes, for looking up we shall see no one, but “only Jesus” (Mt 17:8).