Mountains, Real and Metaphorical, in Spirituality

by Kathleen Glavich, SND on January 24, 2018

in Blogs

On the way to Germany, when we flew over the Alps, a Sister with me had tears running down her face as she gazed at the beauty spread out below us. Mountains are awe-inspiring. No wonder people imagined their gods living on a mountain. For example, the Greeks and Romans believed their gods dwelt on Mount Olympus. Mountains play a role frequently in the Bible. Noah’s ark settles on Mount Ararat, God orders Abraham to take Isaac up a mountain and sacrifice him as a test of faith, Moses receives the Commandments on Mount Sinai and dies on Mount Nebo, God speaks to the prophet Elijah on a mountain, and the Temple is built on a mount. Today that Temple Mount is holy to Christians, Jews, and Muslims. The psalmist, because of a mountain’s solid endurance, calls God a mountain. God says in Isaiah, “Though the mountains may fall, my steadfast love will never leave you” (Isaiah 54:10).  Hikers are drawn to climb mountains like Mt. Everest. Scaling a mountain is a daunting challenge. My sister and I accepted the challenge when we undertook the strenuous walk up Diamond Head mountain in Hawaii. Part way up was a rest stop where several hikers gave up and turned back. But Nancy and I doggedly continued on until, shaky and out of breath, we reached the summit. There the stunning view made the grueling trip worthwhile. In life we are confronted with invisible mountains that test our stamina and faith:

A worker is given a project that looks overwhelming, even impossible. A man unexpectedly finds himself the caretaker of a mentally disabled man. A woman must undergo eight chemotherapy treatments. A businesswoman must work with a colleague who grates on her nerves. The list of “mountains” is endless. You are probably facing at least one right now, maybe a whole range! How do you climb a mountain? One step at a time. Old Testament people met God at the top of their mountains. We are blessed because Jesus is “God with us” and accompanies us every step of the way up the steepest inclines. I suspect that more than once he has to resort to pulling us up and rescuing us when we stumble and slide down.

Speaking of Jesus, mountains often figured in his life. Satan took Jesus to a very high mountain and offered him all the kingdoms of the world. Before choosing the apostles, Jesus went to a mountain and spent the night in prayer. He gave us his outline for a good life during a sermon on the mount. He took three apostles up a mountain (traditionally Mount Tabor) and revealed his glory to them there. Jesus died on Mount Calvary and ascended into heaven from Mount Olivet. He spoke of having faith strong enough to move a mountain. Like us, Jesus also encountered intangible “mountains.” He had to deal with hardhearted and critical religious leaders and thickheaded disciples. He kept up a strenuous regime that involved walking for miles, speaking to crowds, and healing throngs of sick people.

Are you climbing a mountain right now? Don’t be afraid. Have courage because you are not alone. Remember, the view from the top is magnificent.

What is your experience with mountains? Have you climbed a physical one? Have you successfully conquered an invisible one? What did it feel like? What did you “see”? What were the benefits?

 

 

 

 

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