Even though I have a fear of heights, during a short break in Gibraltar I spent a day exploring the Rock, going ever higher, leaving the hustle and bustle of people and of Main Street behind. The higher I walked the more it became me and the odd monkey who had no more sense than to be in the sun, instead sleeping in the shade.
After all the sweat and heat of walking I finally reached the peak, with a small sense of euphoria. From there I could see along the ridge of the rock and on into Spain. I could see over the Strait of Gibraltar and the Mediterranean Sea to the hazy mountains of Africa beyond. Spending time standing, looking, and waiting, taking in all I could see and experience, I said a prayer, and then began my journey back down the Rock, changed through my encounter with this high place.
There is something in human nature which compels us to go up on high. We seek out places where we can stand, to look and to wait. We seek out these places of encounter between ourselves and with something greater than ourselves, be it nature, creation or God.
Throughout Scripture there are accounts of mountain top encounters with God, such as Moses receiving the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai, or Abraham’s test of obedience on Mount Moriah. Jesus would go up on high to teach, he was transfigured on Mount Hermon, and he would gather with his friends in the Upper Room to share the Last Supper, before he was lifted up high upon the cross at Golgotha.
After the Resurrection Jesus would gather with his followers on the Mount of Olives before he ascended to his Father and would send the Holy Spirit upon Mary and the other disciples gathered in prayer, once more in the Upper Room, empowering the Church to go out to all nations to preach the Good News.
In the life of the Church we are living through these mountaintop experiences: we gather and look to our own encounters with God. Between Ascension and Pentecost the Church prays for the Holy Spirit to fill our life and work, much popularised through the ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ initiative of the Archbishops. During this time we pray to deepen our relationship with Jesus, we pray for the Holy Spirit to be at work in the lives of our friends and families, and seek to realise that all of life is included in prayer.
But above all we pray for the Holy Spirit to descend anew upon the Church, to renew us in our faith and mission, to renew the communities and relationships in which we exist and to find meaning. We go on high to stand, to look, and to wait upon God to work upon our lives, before we begin our journey once more, changed through our encounter, to begin again to be the people of God in the world, speaking of the love of God, inviting those whom we meet to join us on the mountaintop where there is room for all.