God’s holy mountain is not elusive, nor is it in some distant land. Rather, God’s holy mountain is present within our hearts. Perhaps we can reflect upon the writings of Isaiah that are heard almost daily throughout this beautiful and pregnant Advent season. I suggest following the daily readings whether you can attend Mass or not. If you do not have a Missal, you can find them on the internet.* Either way the writings of Isaiah are a portal into understanding that the mountain of the Lord is not merely a metaphor, but that it is a reality in which we are invited to reside. We are reminded that if we let the Lord help, we can beat our swords into plowshares such that no matter what others do to us and no matter what the condition of the world, we can respond with peace and mercy. Our response is to accept the invitation to holiness which will then become a beacon of light to invite others into the love and mercy of God, too. The invitation is for everyone: all are welcomed. Therefore to open our hearts to Jesus means to open our hearts to everyone, just as He has. It means to discern His presence and to trust in His word. It means to allow our rough edges to be smoothed and to accept His descent into our world as a means to help us ascend the mountain together. Let us allow Him to write His word in our hearts so that we may shine with His light and therefore help others to walk in the light of the Lord, too.
©Michele L. Catanese
Note: The next entry will be on December 19.
* For the daily readings here is an excellent link which is found on the US Conference of Catholic Bishops site (USSCB) http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/120416.cfm
I have posted for the Second Sunday in Advent, but the readings change daily. Here is the home page: http://www.usccb.org. You can get to the daily readings by clicking on the Bible tab.
First: I chose this Advent wreath which is lit for the Second Week of Advent because it was a rather bright image. It seemed to be in keeping with the theme of light in the passage from Isaiah that I quoted.
Second: This is one of my own photos taken in the Judean hills of southern Israel. I chose it because it seemed representative of the land of Israel and also of the people who were being alerted by Isaiah to make changes lest they lose everything. Something I noticed while traveling in Israel is that there are no terribly high mountains there. What they call mounts or mountains seem like hills in comparison to the great mountains of the world. This is why telling the people that God's holy mountain was greater than any mountain they had seen makes so much sense. If these were the 'mountains' they saw, and God's mountain was higher and greater, then His mountain must be something extra special and definitely fitting for God to reside upon.
Third: This icon is called Mother of God Stone Broke Loose From the Mountain, by Fr. William Hart McNichols. In the book Mother of God Similar to Fire, reflections by Mirabai Starr and icons by Fr. William Hart McNichols, the reflection on this icon beautifully speaks of God's protective presence (Shekhina) on the mountain. She writes: "Indwelling Spirit of the Divine, may your sacred power roll down from the mountain and transform the landscape into a place of peace. As Shekhina, the mist that guided our people in the wilderness, show us the way to freedom...." The Spirit of God is within but moves us to action so that we might spread peace in the barren landscape, so to speak. It was this reflection that inspired me to use this icon here. To purchase a copy of this icon in any medium from plaque to cards, go to http://fineartamerica.com/featured/mother-of-god-stone-broke-loose-from-the-mountain-160-william-hart-mcnichols.html
To see the rest of Mirabai's reflection or to obtain this very beautiful, moving book, go to https://www.amazon.com/Mother-Similar-Fire-William-McNichols/dp/1626981876/ref=sr_1_6?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1480781947&sr=1-6&keywords=mirabai+starr. It also makes a great gift!
Fourth: This is a photo I took while visiting the Gates of the Arctic National Park in Anuktuvuk Pass, Alaska, which is above the Arctic Circle. I chose this unusual selection because this mountain was absolutely captivating. It would be arduous to climb such a mountain, and maybe it seems impossible, but the waters of the river already flow down to us, just as Jesus will 'leave the mountain where God dwells' to descend to the earth.
Fifth: This is an inset from a painting by Duccio di Buoninsegna called Nativity Between the Prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel. (1308-11) I chose this because I really liked the image of Isaiah with the scroll of his writing in one hand and the other pointing toward heaven, or quite possibly, toward God's holy mountain! The original painting is housed in the National Museum of Art in Washington, DC. To see the entire work you can go to http://www.ducciodibuoninsegna.org/Nativity-between-Prophets-Isaiah-and-Ezekiel-1308-11-large.html
Sixth: This is a depiction of the magi, or wise men, who have begun their journey to find the king who was to be born in Bethlehem. I loved this image because it shows the Star of Bethlehem is incredibly radiant, dominating the picture. We are invited into the light of God, just as they seem to be doing. It is indeed a journey, but God will guide us.