The prophets of the Old Testament did it, with Abraham sacrificing Isaac on Mount Moriah, Moses receiving the 10 Commandments on Mt. Sinai and later retired on Mount Nebo, and Elijah on Mt. Carmel…. Even Jesus did it when He took His forty-day fast. And St. Francis received the stigmata while on a mountain retreat in the mountains of Italy.
The Beauty of the Mountains
Why did the prophets go up the mountain? The sheer height of the mountains–the feeling of “touching the heavens”–makes one feel close to the divine. As one climbs up, there is the feeling of isolation as one separates himself from the rest of the world to come in close contact with God. “The mountains melted like wax at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth” (Psalm 97:5). Coupled with a long and difficult hike that can be likened to our constant struggles in life, reaching the top is the pinnacle of one’s search to find God.
So I reckoned: why not do my own journey, LITERALLY? And what better day to do it than on my birthday? And do I did, with the purpose of thanking God for the wonderful life and blessings He has given me in my forty years existence on earth. But rather than search God, I decided that my purpose was to THANK God. With the full support of my husband and son, sister-in-law and uncle, we headed off to Taal Volcano exactly a week ago. More on this experience in my Musings of A Village Rat blog.
Tossed by Rough Waves
We were met with a few challenges before we even began the trek. We were met with a slight drizzle that early morning before we left Bacoor and was met again by a light rain shower in Tagaytay. When we boarded the banca, the lake was pretty calm, but halfway in the trip the lake was tossing us. Full of excitement, the 2 kids (my son and nephew) were squealing in excitement, but the adults weren’t too gung-ho about it. The bumpy ride was over in about 15-20 minutes. It seemed longer than 20 minutes though.
Praying While Scaling Up
Horse rides were available, but we decided that only the kids would get a ride while we got up the crater on foot. I had intended to pray at the start of the ascent but was met with difficulty as the volcanic sand (and later rocky terrain) had made it difficult for me to concentrate on my prayer. I wasn’t an experienced mountain climber after all as my sister-in-law was, so I had to catch my breath a few times. Everytime I started on a Hail Mary, I would be interrupted by a difficult step, a pause or funny chats with my companions. No matter however. As St. Therese of Lisieux had mentioned in her book, Story of A Soul, disturbances or interruptions are part of prayer and should not deter one from prayer incessantly.
Nevertheless, by the time we reached the top I had already finished a few prayers in silence. Nobody knew I was even praying! The view at the top was breathtakingly beautiful. Without shouting at the top of my lungs, I could only mutter to myself: “THANK YOU LORD! HOW GREAT ART THOU!”
I had my sister-in-law to take a photo of me in an oblation pose. It was my big hug to our Lord in the vastness of the sky.
A Bird That Comforted Me
We stayed at the crater for about an hour to sink in the beauty before we made our descent. Going down was just as difficult as going up, but I managed to say a few aspirations before we reached the shoreline. By the time we crossed the waters back to Talisay, the lake had become very rough. The banca’s bow would do a small nosedive everytime we were met by strong waves. We had water splashed over us repeatedly. Everybody was a little panicky and for a short time, I was too. I made a small prayer to St. Raphael, the patron saint of travellers, and asked for protection. Up in the sky that caught my attention was a swallow that was riding in the wind. Then and there I remembered my uncle who was a captain who told me this: “If you see a bird ride up the sky, you are quite safe. If the bird was able to fly, then there is no reason why you cannot be ride the boat safely”.
Remembering this, I knew we were going to be just fine. This bird did not leave our side until we crossed the other side, and when we unboarded it had already gone. All I can say was “thank you”.
It was truly a special day for me.