“I can tell this Scripture was translated by the British”
The response to my comment comes in a bright, distinct tone, “How do you know that?”
“Because, I’m not sure that I’ve ever heard a reading from St. Paul in which he used the word ‘concocted’
“What are you saying? Concocted is a brilliant word. I like it.”
“Of course it is… er… um… brilliant.” I say, adjusting to the way the word ‘brilliant’ comes out of the mouth of the Brits like water out of a faucet. “…I’m just saying that an American would never translate St. Paul with words like, ‘sovereign majesty’ and such.” (Did I just say “and such?” Reach for it David… hold on to your American accent not matter what you do. Don’t give in!)
Back in Ibillin, I have caught up with the young adult group from the diocese of Westminster, England which includes a smattering of UK nationals originating from India, Ireland, Brittan, and New Zealand, We have a lot of fun together, and so we spend the afternoon together going to Mt. Tabor, the mountain of the Transfiguration, where Fr. Chris says Mass.
Their presence to me is a welcome delight during this long pilgrimage. I always long for people my own age, facing my same issues in life, and with whom I can freely speak and understand without much difficulty. This British group is exactly that, with the exception of the part about understanding each other without much difficulty. The fun we have arguing over the differences between British and American English make simple, ordinary things, an amusement.
And that has pretty much been the theme for today. I spent the morning with Micha, who was trying to help me with transportation for the rest of my stay in Israel. Unsuccessful in our attempt, I was required to accompany Micha on his daily chores around Haifa. He is the contractor who is in charge of the renovations of various projects of the Melkite church in Haifa. We stop in at various construction sites. We stop in at the hardware store. We stop in at the tile showroom. We stop in at the leading audio supply warehouse.
All the while, I’m asking myself. Is this the normal route for a pilgrimage? The more I realize that the answer is “no” the more I realize that it should be. This journey today is the building blocks of the Church, it is the people who are building the buildings, and living life. Every church that I have visited, no matter the period of history in which it was built, no matter which dynasty built it, all had moments like these, people talking with each other trying to get the needs of the community fulfilled.
I met ordinary people today. There was nothing FANTASTIC (as the Brits would say) in particular about them. They merely did their daily jobs, and I found that remarkably holy and a privilege to behold.
I have heard many sermons about the Transfiguration in my life. Jesus goes up (what I came to discover is) a very steep mountain, and Peter, James, and John suddenly see him in blinding light as is he were flanked by and in conversation with Moses and Elijah, the two greatest heroes of the Hebrew Scriptures.
Theologians have never worked out for me what Moses and Elijah were doing there given what Catholics believe about original sin and hell. Technically, Moses and Elijah were still assigned to be in Hell. They should have been released when Jesus died, broke, the gates of hell, and rescued all of those poor people who were stuck.
A fair way out of the theological conundrum of the Transfiguration is that the Apostles merely saw what they perceived was Moses and Elijah, but they weren’t really there. This way of thinking is an interpretation of the Transfiguration that it wasn’t Jesus who changed but it was the Apostles who changed. They began to see Jesus differently. This ordinary man whom they had followed, all of a sudden became extraordinary to them.
At Mass, Fr. Chris reminded us of the thoughts of Thomas Merton who once wrote about a mystical experience in which the world he saw was transfigured. He said, “It was as if everyone around him was glowing.” Ordinary people for Thomas Merton began to be seen for their extraordinary value.
If you have downloaded Google Earth onto your computer, your ordinary computer will be transfigured into an extraordinary satellite viewing machine that will demonstrate to you the location of Mt. Tabor, and pictures of the church of the Transfiguration, by clicking here. Don’t mind the photos of the Brits in my pictorial. These ordinary people are also extraordinary, and that is what makes sharing a day of pilgrimage with them ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS, no matter the CONCOCTED disparity.
(My God! The words they use! They’re beginning to affect even my writing. Keep fighting David… you’re an American… you can keep your language. You can keep your identity… you don’t have to give in!)