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Photo: Melanie Williams

Inside the Church of the Transfiguration on Mt. Tabor, the Mosaic above the high altar depicts the Transfiguration of Jesus.

A Holy Land Pilgrimage: Pt. 3 — 'It is Good That We Are Here'

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Overlooking the Jezreel Valley

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The Church of the Transfiguration upon Mt. Tabor.

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The main arch and entrance to the Church of the Transfiguration. The Latin Scripture text is from Matthew 18.

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Inside the Church of the Transfiguration.

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The lower chapel of the Church of the Transfiguration.

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In the lower chapel of the Church of the Transfiguration. In Latin it reads, "Lord, it is good that we are here" (Mt 17:4).

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Holy Mass in the lower chapel of the Church of the Transfiguration.

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The Church of the Transfiguration on Mt. Tabor.

By Melanie Williams (Feb 20, 2018)
From Oct. 26 - Nov. 5, 2017, staff writer Melanie Williams went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Having walked where Jesus walked, prayed where He prayed, and experienced the current Middle Eastern cultural and political climate, she would like to share some of her pilgrimage and journey with you. Today, in the third part of an nine-part weekly series, travel with her from Galilee to Jerusalem, just as Jesus did before His Crucifixion: by going up Mt. Tabor.

On this, our third full day, we were heading to Jerusalem. But, just like Jesus, we couldn't just go straight to Jerusalem; we needed to make the journey as Jesus did and walk in His footsteps.

We began our day packing up from the hotel on the Sea of Galilee. We were warned that as we headed south, it would become less green and more desert-like. As it is with the spiritual life, we began with sweet consolations and were led towards the Cross.

We began at a Bedouin outpost, where we crammed into vans and were driven 40 mph up steep inclines and hairpin turns to the top of Mt. Tabor. We could have hiked it, like Jesus and His disciples, but it is a huge mountain. Jesus and His disciples must have been in great shape!

At the top of the mountain, at 1,886 feet, you can see everything around you in the Jezreel Valley. On this mountaintop stands the Church of the Transfiguration, marking the spot where Jesus brought Peter, James, and John and was transfigured before them. The Church has enormously high ceilings and dazzling gold mosaics above the high altar and within the lower chapel. As the sun shines through the stain glass windows and bounces off of the mosaic, you can feel the brilliance of the glory of God that shown down about the disciples as Jesus was transfigured and "his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light" (Mt 17:2).

We had Mass here, in the lower chapel. I was asked by the Marian priest to sing a song for Mass. The song that came to my heart to sing was "Revelation Song." During Communion, the lyrics which I sang went:

Clothed in rainbows of living color
Flashes of lighting rolls of thunder
Blessing and honor strength and glory and power be
To You the only one who's King

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty
Who was and is and is to come
With all creation I sing praise to the King of kings
You are my everything and I will adore You

Filled with wonder awestruck wonder
At the mention of Your name
Jesus Your name is power, breath and living water
Such a marvelous mystery


By the time the song was over, my entire body was shaking from the depths of my soul. It was like the glory of God was passing through my soul and filling my entire being. I bowed down to the ground in awe and wonder and felt like the disciples at the Transfiguration who fell prostrate before the Lord (see Mt 17:6).

There are moments in our lives, big and small, when we become filled with awe and wonder at what transpires before us - the birth of a child, a glorious sunrise, reunion with a friend you haven't seen in a long time. In moments such as these, a certain fear of God can fill our souls. Can you think of any such moments in your life? Jesus comes to us in those moments and touches us, like He touched the disciples, and says, "Rise, and do not be afraid" (Mt17:7).

Peter had said to the Lord, "Lord, it is good that we are here" (Mt 17:4), and a quote from a sermon by St. Francis de Sales on this Gospel passage came to my mind:

Consequently, in the midst of consolation one must be reminded of the Passion. No, indeed, it is not necessary to say as St. Peter does, It is good that we be here (Matt 17:4), but it is good that we pass by here in order to go to the mountain of Calvary (Oeuvres de St. Fran├žois de Sales, trans. by Thomas F. Dailey, OSFS).


In this sermon, St. Francis de Sales goes on to say that consolation is necessary for weak souls to be able to go to the Cross. Otherwise, what would encourage them to go to such suffering for Jesus? "One descends from the mountain of Tabor a sinner, but on the contrary one descends that of Calvary justified (see Lk 18:14)" he says. It is precisely at the Cross that we can learn the way of perfection, the way of love.

This is understood when one holds firm there at the foot of the Cross, as Our Lady, who is the paragon of all that is beautiful and excellent in heaven and on earth. St. John dwells there firm at the feet of his Master, and never more does one find that he commits any sin. One is quite right to be afraid in the midst of consolation, for one does not know if one loves the consolation of God, or better the God of consolations (see 2 Cor 1:3) (Oeuvres de St. Fran├žois de Sales, trans. by Thomas F. Dailey, OSFS).


So, although the experience at Tabor was incredible and truly amazing, I knew that we would need to come down off the mountain, and like Jesus, set our faces towards Jerusalem (see Lk 9:51). I knew of a deeper calling tugging on my heart since Capernaum, "Melanie, the bride must resemble the Bridegroom" (see Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, 268). But what did that mean? We will continue from here next week ...

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Jeannette Clark - Mar 28, 2018

Melanie, gifted are you! God Bless you for sharing so fully.