Podcast discussing the beauty of Mount Tabor and the glory and meaning of the Transfiguration, a pivotal event in the life of Jesus that Catholics celebrate every August 6. 14 minute interview of Dr. Italy by Sonrise Morning Show radio host Anna Mitchell.
The Transfiguration was indeed a pivotal event in the life of Jesus and his three closest disciples, Peter, James and John. Right after Peter confesses him to be the Messiah and Jesus makes clear that he would be a suffering messiah, they ascend a mountain to pray (Luke 9:28). Neither Luke nor the other evangelists who tell the story note the name of the mountain, but the early Christians of Galilee preserved the memory of the place as Mount Tabor. Origen, a great theologian from the early 3rd century, is our earliest written witness to this tradition.
Mount Tabor is a solitary peak that is surrounded by valleys. Across the valley to the northwest you can see Nazareth. To the southwest, you can see the village of Nain where Jesus raised the widows son. The path to the summit of Tabor consists of harrowing hair-pin curves but rewards the traveler with incredible views. The top is like a lush garden bedecked with every color of the rainbow.
Glorious Church of the Transfiguration
After passing a ruined Benedictine monastery once comes to the modern church of the Transfiguration, designed by the accomplished Italian architect Antonio Barluzzi, perhaps the most beautiful church of the Holy Land. There are three bell towers – a taller central one for Christ, flanked by two slightly lower towers, representing Moses and Elijah who appeared with Jesus in glory. There are chapels dedicated to Moses and Elijah as well, with frescoes of the two prophets. The main nave is spacious, the apse containing a mosaic of the transfigured Christ with a background of gold representing the heavenly glory. On August 6th every year, the angle of the sun streaming through the windows strikes the gold under the feet of Christ in the apse so as to recreate a brilliance reminiscent of the scene of the miracle.
Tabor as Pilgrimage Stop
When we travel to the holy land on pilgrimage, Mount Tabor is a principal stop. We have there our own mountaintop-experience complete with a mass at the main altar, surrounded by magnificent mosaics. In the context of our Mass, we pray for healing and many receive the sacrament of the sick. On our last pilgrimage, we concluded just as the massive bells in the three towers began to ring out their joy, proclaiming the glory of God. Truly a mountaintop experience that none of us will ever forget!
For more on Mt. Tabor, see the TRANSFIGURATION SECTION of the Crossroads Initiative Library.
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