Feast of the Transfiguration 2009

August 6, 2009

Today is the Feast of the Transfiguration of Christ, one of those dazzling and mysterious episodes in the Gospels where a crack in the world opens up and some light shines in.  The story is told in all of the synoptic Gospels; by all means, take the time today to read it.  (Here is Luke’s account.)

The Scriptures do not say where this took place, only that it was “a mountain”.   There are not many candidates in the region, and according to tradition it is Mount Tabor.   Last summer we were in Israel and visited Mount Tabor.  Most people take a bus to the top, but we decided to walk up.  It took several hours of vigorous hiking to reach the summit, all in the blazing heat of a Middle Eastern afternoon.  We gained a new appreciation for the fortitude of Peter, James, and John, who accompanied Christ on this journey, and new insight into all those metaphors about water that we find in the Gospels.  There is a beautiful church atop the mountain, and two (restricted access) monasteries as well, along with gardens and a network of shady stone walls.  A little shop run by Franciscans is nearby, and we bought from them a lovely olive-wood carving of the Virgin and Child.  It was a wonderful day.  Here are several photographs from the occasion (click to enlarge):

Mount Tabor

Mount Tabor

Making our ascent.

Making our ascent.

Near the summit, a Crusader fortification now in ruins.

Near the summit, a Crusader fortification now in ruins.

Approaching the church, a rare appearance of the "thorn" character on the English sign.

Approaching the church, a rare appearance of the thorn character on the English sign.

The facade of the church from an awkward angle.

The facade of the church from an awkward angle.

The interior of the church, showing the apse and a side altar.

The interior of the church, showing the apse and a side altar.

A Crusader cross in one of the capitals.

A detail of one of the capitals.

The Crusader flag flies from a nearby building.

The Crusader flag flies from a nearby building.

Tendril and spray, clutch and cling.  Our descent briefly delayed.

Tendril and spray clutch and cling. Our descent briefly delayed.

Finally, I can’t resist linking to the song “The Transfiguration”, which Sufjan Stevens wrote for his album Seven Swans.  It takes a minute or two to gather steam, but by the end it is quite wonderful.

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