Transfiguration: Year A Frank* and I hiked Mt Moosilauke in New Hampshire’s White Mountains in late summer. We arrived at the top and were enveloped in cloud. Moosilauke means bald place in what I guess is Abenaki. The bald place with spectacular views was denied us. Our attention was drawn to plants, scrub trees and late flowers covered in hoar frost. Hoar frost is when dew meets freezing temperatures and laces whatever it touches with a crystalline layer of ice. The top of the mountain became an enclosure with permeable walls that breathed in and out with the movement of the mist and the light breeze.
The bald place became a tabernacle where earth, wind, fire and ice conspired to transform the space into its particular form and beauty. Each leaf, branch, sedge, rock, lichen, and vine invited us closer to witness its transformation into frozen garments of ice and light. On a clear day when you can “see forever”, you don’t often have the opportunity to notice what’s at your feet or in front of your nose. That day was a kind of transfiguration. Mount Tabor in Israel is one sight where pilgrims are told the Transfiguration took place. Today we may ride to the top where, wouldn’t you know, a church and convent have been built. The mount is smaller than Moosilauke and yet clouds from the Mediterranean and from winds drifting north from the Sea of Galilee carry much potential for transfiguration. Maybe Jesus had always been radiant, clothed in light
For me it’s totally real and present that Jesus would be in intimate conversation with his spiritual mentors, Moses and Elijah. Who would you and I invite to the mountain with us? Certainly a good friend and who else? Jesus, Mary, Abraham Heschel, Merton, Nouwen? It was almost 2000 years after the event that we were there. Diminutive nuns sold us beautiful carved olive wood crosses and we could see for miles over the valley. When Jesus is transfigured into light and holiness, the voice from the cloud announces, “This is my beloved son, listen to him.” Haven’t some of us in our revelry or madness heard a similar voice saying, “You are my beloved son or daughter?” The second part of the voice from the cloud directed to the disciples, “Listen to Him,” was absent in my times on the bald place and on Mt Tabor. It is not important that you listen to me. I am like the old monk who sits beside the river and hands out river water to anyone who would pass by. We point to Him. It is to Him where we attune our ears to hear the words that open the mind and the heart. And don’t stay on the mountaintop. Your transfigured self is needed right where you are in your everyday life, when clothed in light, you know your being is valued by God. *Frank Cloherty is a Roman Catholic priest who became a friend when we shared congregations adjacent to each other in Malden and Revere, Massachusetts. He is now living in Quincy, MA