Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Lessons Descending Mount Tabor

Mount Tabor in Springtime

On their way down the mountain, he enjoined them not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They seized upon those words, and discussed among themselves what this 'rising from the dead' could mean. And they put a question to him. 'Why do our teachers say that Elijah must be the first to come?' He replied, 'Yes, Elijah does come first to set everything right. Yet how is it that the scriptures say of the Son of Man that he is to endure great sufferings and to be treated with contempt? However, I tell you Elijah has already come and they have worked their will upon him, as the scriptures say of him.'  Mary 9: 9-13

These verses follow the Transfiguration account of Mark 9:1-8. And as the little group now descends the mountain, Jesus instructs them not to tell others about their mystical experience until he has been "raised from the dead."  Of course the three disciples are confused, and even though Jesus has made reference to the resurrection, when he is raised on Easter morning, they are taken by surprise. 

Then out of their confusion they question Jesus. I grew up being told no questions allowed: "Just believe it; it's a mystery." But that won't do. Jesus doesn't scold or ridicule them; he allows for questions. Lots of people have lots of legitimate questions, especially about human suffering and why God allows us to experience such pain, loss and sorrow. 

But in their questioning they speak of the great prophet, Elijah, who was taken up to heaven in a whirlwind. But when Jesus speaks of Elijah, he's really speaking about John the Baptist, who was treated with contempt and murdered. Jesus announced that he should personally expect no less treatment. And so the shadow of the cross falls across the scene as they descend the glory- mountain.

In the Resurrection of Jesus, God will have his day. These three disciples have been given a peek into that day and Jesus, good teacher that he is, reinforces the lesson on the way back down Mount Tabor. But many Christians get stuck at Calvary, joyless and obsessed with death and sin (especially the sins of other people). Saint Augustine said, "We are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song." Christ's death and resurrection is one fluid movement. Do you feel you have that movement in balance? Does Resurrection show in our lives: looking for life, encouraging life. repair, restoration and personal evolution?

Here's a little biography of Sister Constance and her Memphis companions. Life-claiming yellow fever and an Easter-shout!

In 1878 the American city of Memphis on the Mississippi River was struck by an epidemic of yellow fever, which so depopulated the area that the city lost its charter and was not reorganized for fourteen years. Almost everyone who could afford to do so left the city and fled to higher ground away from the river. (It was not yet know that the disease was mosquito-borne, but it was observed that high and dry areas were safe.) There were in the city several communities of nuns, Anglican or Roman Catholic, who had the opportunity of leaving, but chose to stay and nurse the sick. Most of them, thirty-eight in all, were themselves killed by the fever. One of the first to die (on September 9, 1878) was Constance, head of the Anglican Community of Saint Mary. Her last deathbed words were all Easter:  "Alleluia, Hosanna!"


  1. It is not only a lesson with Mount Tabor and the Transfiguration but in all of life. But how often do we remember that?

  2. Yes! We're busy. We're distracted. We're pre-occupied. We're tired.The posts here only serve as little pointers - "let's remember" if even for this moment. The word "remember" -to put it back together. Blessed Sunday to you!

  3. Father, I want you to know that over the past several years of reading your blog, that you have helped me to see beyond what you refer to here as being stuck in Calvary, learning to look for self restoration and truly believing in God's love over everything else. The journey continues, but I keep putting one step in front of the last and move forward instead of backwards. Thank you for opening my eyes more widely.

  4. It think it was three or four Sundays ago that the Gospel began, "A vast crowd followed Jesus." Jesus of course was winding his way to Calvary-Easter. And we're all in that vast traveling crowd - each believer. There you are, "one step in front of the last and moving forward instead of backwards." Carry on!

    1. It's because you respond and care about the people who read and comment here that I read yur blog. It gives me a connection

  5. I feel the connection: Love for Jesus. Love for his Mother. Love for the Gospel Word. Love for the children, the icon, the music, the poem, the prayer, the flowers, the animals. Love for God. Great stuff!