The Mountain of Heaven on Earth

by May Tam

It has been the traditional belief that Jesus' transfiguration took place on Mount Tabor, though Mount Hermon was also suggested. The importance is not on which mountain the event occurred but that Jesus was transfigured on a mountain. It is not difficult to detect that throughout His earthly ministry, Jesus displays noticeably His fondness of mountains (rf Mt 5:1, 14:23, 15:29, 28:16-17; Mk 3:13, 6:45-46, Lk 6:12; Jn 6:3, 6:15).

By their nature, mountains post a challenge to humankind. It requires a great deal of effort, patience and sacrifice to reach their summits. In the Old Testament, God revealed Himself on mountaintops to Abraham and Moses (rf Gen 22:2, Ex 19:16-20, Dt 34:1). To the Israelites, those peaks are holy; they stand as witnesses and reminders of their election as God's chosen people. Traveling among these mountains in His public ministry, Jesus shows Himself in line with His heavenly Father. He speaks the divine truth (rf Mt 5:17-42, 6:1-18); He reveals the true nature of God's kingdom (rf Mt 5:3-12); He gives the law of love as the fundamental Christian law (rf Mt 5:43-48).

Today, Jesus again chooses a mountaintop to reveal His divinity and offer comfort to His disciples in anticipation of His impending death on another mountain - Mount Calvary. The mystery of the Transfiguration can be seen as the final step of the apostles' formation before they witness the horror of the cross. By this mystery, the elements of the future kingdom are manifested. First, the Blessed Trinity; second, the Old Israel, represented by Moses and Elijah who acknowledged Jesus as the fulfillment of their messianic hope and finally, the Church, represented by the apostles. These are what we will ultimately behold in heaven, the old and the new people, brought into communion and into the glory of God.

On that mountain of Transfiguration, Jesus shares, for an instant, the glory of His divinity through His transfigured humanity. Without leaving this world, the apostles at that time and we now, are able to have a glimpse of the life to come. How blessed is that mountain where heaven and earth once met!