TREASURES FROM OUR TRADITION
The second Sunday of Lent every year recalls the Transfiguration of the Lord. Since the fourth century, Mount Tabor has been the focus of devotion to this event. As mountains go, it is not particularly lofty, rising about fifteen hundred feet, within view of the Sea of Galilee and very close to Nazareth. Scripture doesn’t identify the mountain, but in the year 348 Saint Cyril of Jerusalem said he preferred Mount Tabor to Mount Hermon as the site of the Transfiguration, and his opinion won. It has long been a strategic military site, and ancient fortresses are visible on the heights. Over the centuries, churches and fortified monasteries rose on the mountaintop, only to be destroyed by various invaders. Six hundred years ago, local Christians started to decorate the ruins with flags and banners on the Feast of the Transfiguration. In 1631, the Sultan granted permission to the Franciscans to live on Mount Tabor, and they have been there ever since, discovering the ruins of an old Crusader church and constructing the present church on the site in 1924.
The top of the mountain is divided into Greek Orthodox and Latin (that’s us) zones. At one time, tourists arrived on the summit by bus, but this is no longer permitted. Some ride bicycles up a challenging and winding path, while others take the four thousand three hundred steps constructed for Christian pilgrims in the fourth century. It’s hard to imagine the fishermen following Jesus up this craggy mountain without complaint. Visitors will sympathize with Peter’s plan to construct booths and stay put with Jesus, Moses, and Elijah for a while, enjoying the view, and planning the trip back down.
—Rev. James Field, Copyright © J. S. Paluch Co.
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