Sunday, June 7, 2009

Mountain Climbing

Today being the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, the Gospel reading was taken from Matthew 28:16-20. What particularly struck me in reading it was Matthew’s mention of “the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.” What’s the significance?

This imagery is evocative of the God of the Old Testament, the all-powerful God who time and time again made mountains the natural edifice upon which He revealed Himself to His people. In the New Testament, it fulfills this same purpose but reveals more. The disciples were commanded to ascend this mountain, and this ascension, I believe, serves not just a literal purpose in the scripture but also a spiritual one.

Upon ascending the mountain, the eleven apostles worshipped. Worship is unity with Him through submission. Submission was effected through the difficult ascension that was just made. What we see is the outline of the means by which mystical union with Him is effected. True worship and mystical union is brought about by “ascending the mountain” that he has called us to ascend. It is a denying of self, a self-sacrificing effort to rid ourselves of the horizontal in order to embark upon the vertical. This brings to mind Christ’s words, “And I, when I am lifted up, will draw all men to myself.” Christ was literally lifted up upon the cross, the cross that He carried up the mountain. In order to be brought up, we must first be brought low through suffering and a rejection of the flesh. It is as though Christ Himself, through this reading, is telling us, “I extend the same command to you. You must ascend! There is no other way to perfect the mystical union. Ascend! Rise above the world, the flesh, selfishness, lust, materialism, and seek out what is above for I am there.”

Though the apostles ascended with their backs to what was below, this did not magically remove doubt from their hearts. In fact, on a spiritual level, the effort of ascending may increase doubt, for it is an ascension into the unknown. The unknown becomes bearable, though, because of Christ’s words which seemed to have been spoken because of their doubt: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me…and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” His authority is made manifest to us through submission to Him, and with the assurance of His authority comes the dispelling of fear and doubt. Christ pays us the intolerable compliment of extending the invitation of being made perfect, of entering deeply into Him and His mystery through worship. It is intolerable because of the mountain we must ascend. It is intolerable because of the Mystery Itself that we must dive into without thought for our own safety.

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