From Father's Desk

Dear Family in Christ,

I enjoy hiking, being outdoors, breathing the fresh air, enjoying God’s beauty, and especially sleeping under the stars. Very memorable has been my time hiking along sections of the Appalachian Trail. Hawk Mountain is one such place, not far from here. Less a mountain than part of the Blue Mountain Ridge, and really not very high (only 1500 feet), it has been so named because many raptors use the ridge to traverse migratory patterns, gliding effortlessly down or up the valley to better hunting grounds. The view from the ridge is special although the ascent is more a rocky staircase than a typical wooded trail. Contrast that vista with some more noteworthy peaks in Vermont, for example Glastenbury Mountain (3745 feet), where it is really beneficial to ascend the fire tower in order to behold the magical view, and we can recognize that not only the elevation contributes to the view but a host of factors including topography and flora. Traversing some peaks along the AT, one does not even know that the summit has been reached until the descent continues; the path is wooded the whole way.

This weekend, Jesus takes a small band (only Peter, James and John) up a high mountain, alone, by themselves, in the familiar scene of the Transfiguration. I picture it like a retreat, a moment to get away, a hike in the woods to connect with God. I wonder what the view was like from up on that mountain. The summit was quite memorable, etched into their minds by the presence of Moses and Elijah - exemplifying the Law & the Prophets - the first two canons of the Jewish Scriptures. And Jesus there in their midst, glowing like the sun, arrayed in splendor and majesty, depicted visually at least, as the fulfillment of those sacred writings, the arrival of the long-desired Messiah. So shaken are these three that they can barely lift their noses from the ground. They are struck in silence. What did they understand of this vision?

fresheyesSometimes awesome moments happen in our lives; we are awestruck; we tremble. Other times, we may have ascended the mountain and may not have even noticed the climb. Two times Matthew recounts the same words spoken from above: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (see: Mt 3:17 & Mt 17:5). The first time, at the Baptism of Jesus, no reaction from the crowd is recounted. In the next moment, Jesus is driven into the desert by the Holy Spirit to be tempted - where we found him last week. At the Transfiguration, the witnesses hit the deck in awe and fear. What is different? Maybe the luminous vision gives them fresh eyes.

From time to time in my own I have come upon mountaintop moments - clear sight of God’s wonder and a deep sense of awe and trembling. I still recall vividly the emergence of my vocation to the priesthood, as a clarion encounter - lucid heart to heart communication. I recall a deep sense of God’s powerful yet gentle love. And I also admit to moments that required further reflection. Times of God’s presence that felt more like a wooded summit than a clear vista. More subtle communication, God touching my life, that only came to my attention in the practice of the daily Examen, or in my journal, or in conversations with friends. Sometimes that second pass really helps to illuminate how God is moving in our lives. Often God does not send a powerful message that leaves us in fear and trembling, but gentling whispers. The latter requires more reflection, consistent prayer, fresh eyes, and holy conversation to bring to light how the Spirit is moving. Sometimes only hindsight provides a clear view when the summit is hidden from view. What is your mountaintop experience?

In Christ,
Fr. Wilson