Marking the Spot
In this back page we have been following the Gospel according to St Mark and learning what lessons it has for us today. We come this month to the Transfiguration of our blessed Lord when in the presence of three apostles, Peter, James and John, he appeared in vivid splendour with Moses and Elijah on a high mount on the Galilean plain. The apostles were over-awed and gasped ‘let us build three shrines’. It was a mystic experience and today is marked by a church on Mount Tabor reached by a hard climb (or by taxi).
Through the ages holy experiences have been celebrated and marked so that pilgrims may in some way gain spiritual comfort. In this month of December we can learn that the greatest event of all time, the birth of the Son of God, is marked at Bethlehem, a few miles south of Jerusalem in the ancient Church of the Nativity. Pilgrims enter through a low door, then go down steps under the high altar into the remains of a cave where on the floor a gold star bears the inscription ‘here was born Jesus the son of God.’ It is an awesome place and all are reduced to silence.
For an account of what happened we need to turn to the first chapters of St Luke’s Gospel because Mark’s Gospel starts when Jesus was thirty years old, possibly because a Roman audience would not be interested in what is a very Jewish account. Mark is eager to begin with the message of the arrival of the kingdom of God on earth.
Today at Christmas time we are able to share the joy and awe of the shepherds at Bethlehem and the apostles at the Transfiguration when we kneel before the Christmas crib which is not just an extra decoration but marks the spot of God with us. ‘The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld his glory’ writes St John. O come let us worship.