On being asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, George Mallory, an expert mountaineer who perished on his third attempt to climb Mount Everest in 1924, simply answered, “Because it is there! Going to the mountains is like going home.”
Mountains always had a certain fascination on men. They are a sign of solidity and stability. They tower over us, touching the sky, sometimes through clouds … they convey a sense of mystery. Men pass, mountains remain. Mountains in the Scriptures provide the backdrop to many key events in the unfolding history of salvation.
In the story of the great flood, only Noah, his family and the animals in his boat were saved. When the rain stopped after a deluge that lasted 150 days, the Noah’s boat came to rest on a mountain in the Ararat range.
It was from that mountainous perch that Noah sent out a dove to find out whether the floods had fully abated and if he could emerge from the ark to begin life anew. The mountain was the starting point of a new life.
Mount Moriah is the mountain where Abraham lived an epic moment of faith. “Take your son Isaac whom you love, and offer him for me on the mountain that I am going to show you.” This mountain meant death for Abraham. But it turned out to be the mountain of resurrection. God proved himself a faithful God and his son was rescued.
“On the mountain of the Lord, Yahweh provides”. On the mountain of your problems and on the mountain of my problems, God provides for all our needs. Always. May I repeat, always.
Mount Sinai is the mountain where God revealed himself. He made a covenant with his people. On this mountain He made a people out of a bunch of slaves. It was on Sinai – the holy mountain where Moses was taking care of the sheep and goats of his father-in-law Jethro – that Moses received his call from God in the burning bush to deliver his people from the cruelty of their Egyptian masters.
Mount Sinai basically means that we have been chosen. And so, we can continue walking in life confident that God will always outshine Himself in truthfulness. Once chosen, always chosen.
Mount Carmel is a dear mountain to the Carmelites. (I am a Carmelite!) For seven years the land did not see a drop of water. Then Elijah prayed. When we pray we recognize that He is in charge. Elijah sends his servant seven times to go up the mountain and ‘to tell me what you see’. The first time he saw nothing. The second time he saw nothing. The third time he saw nothing. Every time nothing. Then finally he saw a cloud so small and insignificant, that he was not even sure it was a cloud. This cloud grew fast. It became a downpour…
Amazing how God can transform dryness into abundance, disaster into triumph, a break down in marriage into a beautiful relationship… Prayer and humility are the keys. Never be discouraged by the apparent failures.
The psalmist is right when he sings, “I look to the mountains; where will my help come from? My help will come from the Lord, who made heaven and earth”.
And again, “Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which can never be shaken, never be moved. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people now and for ever”.
In the New Testament too, we see that mountains play a significant symbolic role. Jesus often went away to the hills to pray and be alone. He delivered the famous sermon on the mount on the Mount of Blessings. Jesus underwent one of his temptations on ‘a very high mountain’ where the devil showed him all the kingdoms of the world in all their greatness, saying: “All this I will give you if you kneel down and worship me”.
When Jesus showed three of his disciples, Peter, James and John his divine form, they were alone with him on Mount Tabor and as they looked, a change came over Jesus and his face shone like the sun and his clothes became dazzling white.
When we are saddened by the transient nature of our earthly existence, mountains through their sheer lasting quality can challenge us to look beyond ourselves and to hope for unending life.
All of us will face mountains. Some of them will be formidable… a personal weakness, an addiction of some sort, a difficult task that needs doing. They will challenge our faith… Do not let these mountains scare you unto death. Look at the way God transformed mountains into rivers of grace! With Him on our side we can win.
“Lord, I’ve never moved a mountain and I guess I never will. All the faith that I could muster wouldn’t move a small ant hill. …Yet, I thank you, Lord of Heaven, you have always heard my call. And as long as there are mountains in my life, I’ll have no fear, for the mountain-moving Jesus is my strength and always near.”
When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece. God is like that.
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.