Mount Ararat, Mount Sinai, and the Mount of Olives… all the names of mountains I grew up with from my Catholic catechism.
Last Sunday’s homily at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Johor Bahru took as its theme the symbolism of the mountain as a place of withdrawal and prayer, as a prelude to resolution, enlightenment and action, as well as a source of mental, psychological and spiritual strength. The Gospel reading was the Transfiguration Story from the Book of Luke.
The mountain. Sacred in many cultures. Also a place of death. How many bodies lie dead on the slopes of Mount Everest, or Holy Sagarmartha, as the Tibetans refer to it. Many devout Buddhist Tibetans consider trekking and climbing upon and over this mountain to be an affront to the gods, and possibly one reason for some and many deaths. The business of ascending Mount Everest these days has certainly become unsavoury at times, as big bucks are paid by rich individuals to ascend with ever-obliging Sherpa porters and guide teams. The pressure to ascend during small windows of good weather conditions adds to the stress that is placed on teams and individuals and the weight of loss if a climber is unable to summit with increasingly diminishing resources and supplies.
But I digress.
I liked the theme of the homily that we all need to find time to reflect and pray on and in our own spiritual and symbolic mountains, our own places of quiet, closer to heaven, to the gods, to God, to our Meaning. How busy we have become with our working lives, our families, our technologies that were supposed to make life easier and even our leisure hours become filled with pursuits to keep us ever busy. We forget to pray and to think and to reflect – arguably some of our most basic, archetypal behaviours.