As I have said in previous blogs about Pope Benedict XVI, we are blessed beyond our years to have experienced the papacy of this great theologian, even though it’s a short papal reign compared to his predecessor. Dr. Scott Hahn two weeks at the Catechetical Symposium here in Phoenix said that Benedict is a great gift to the Church, but we are too close to see him this way right now. He went on to say that, Benedict is the scripture and liturgy scholar of our time. Although his papacy is short, he will abdicate it on February 28, what he has brought to the Church through his writings and studying of the Holy Scriptures will be examined and studied by the Church for generations to come.
Being that today is the Second Sunday of the Lent and the readings are loosely connected to the Exodus theme, I want to share with you some of the words of Pope Benedict XVI from his great trilogy – Jesus of Nazareth. This excerpt comes from Part 1 – From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration. Part 2 is about Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection, and part 3 is on the Infancy Narratives.
Now let’s go mountain climbing with Pope Benedict XVI to understand the importance of the mountain symbolism. He says…
“Once again the mountain serves – as it did in the Sermon on the Mount and in the nights spent by Jesus in prayer – as the locus of God’s particular closeness. Once again we need to keep together in our minds the various mountains of Jesus’ life: the mountain of the temptation; the mountain of his great preaching; the mountain of his prayer; the mountain of the Transfiguration; the mountain of his agony; the mountain of the Cross; and finally, the mountain of the Risen Lord, where he declares – in total antithesis to the offer of world dominion through the devil’s power: “All power in heaven and on earth is given to me” (Mt 28:18). But in the background we also catch sight of Sinai, Horeb, Moriah – the mountains of Old Testament revelation. They are all at one and the same time mountains of passion and of Revelation, and they also refer in turn to the Temple Mount, where Revelation become liturgy.
When we acquire into the meaning of the mountain, the first point is of course the general background of mountain symbolism. The mountain is the great place of ascent – not only outward, but also inward ascent; it is a liberation from the burden of everyday life, a breathing in of the pure air of creation; it offers a view of the broad expanse of creation and its beauty; it gives one an inner peak to stand on and an intuitive sense of the Creator. History then adds to all this the experience of the God who speaks, and the experience of the Passion, culminating in the sacrifice of Isaac, in the sacrifice of the lamb that points ahead to the definitive Lamb sacrificed on Mount Calvary. Moses and Elijah were privileged to receive God’s revelation on the mountain, and they are conversing with the One who is God’s Revelation in person.”
Woah! The great minds and theologians of the Church have a way of taking 2000 years of teaching and fitting it all into a matter of sentences. There is so much here to unpack, it would be hard to start. Today’s post is more of a short reflection on this passage than a theological treatise on two short paragraphs from chapter nine in Benedict’s text.
For me, I loved reading this passage because living in Scottsdale, Arizona, I can see mountains by just stepping out my front door and walking the down the street a bit. In a city where hiking up mountains is a daily occurrence, and on some mountains in the area – mountain climbing with ropes, this passage comes alive for me. Walking up a mountain such as Camelback Mountain can be seen as exercise, but it can also be a penitential act, especially during the season of Lent. I understand what it means to ascend up a mountain inwardly as Benedict states. Sometimes the greatest escape is to climb a mountain. It is my prayer this day that every time I view a mountain here or anywhere, it will bring to mind Our Lord as he ascended up the many mountains during his life on Earth.
As we continue onward in this season of Lent, let us continue to walk with our Lord in the desert, and up a mountain, for it is in both of these places that we will find Him waiting for us. Remember to prayerfully offer up each Holy Mass you attend for it’s not just a meal, but it’s the Sacrifice of the Lamb. Continue to find strength in Christ, to offer up your Lenten Sacrifices, and to PRAY.