Theology of the Mountain

For the past five weeks I have been living in beautiful Seattle, accompanying my youngest son as he attends a summer ballet program at the Pacific Northwest Ballet. I’m thankful for a pastor and administrator who respected my family needs and allowed me a short sabbatical. I’m thankful for organists and singers who have served the liturgy so beautifully in my absence. I’m thankful for the incredible hospitality we’ve received here, especially from the people of Our Lady of Fatima parish in the Seattle neighborhood of Magnolia.

Our residency here is almost complete, and while we are anxious to come home to our own family and church, we will miss the incredible natural beauty of this area of the country – especially the stunning vistas of Mount Rainier. I must admit, living in view of that towering volcanic cone took some getting used to. While it is dormant and has not erupted in over 100 years, Rainier is considered one of the most dangerous active volcanoes in the world. Topping off at 14,411 feet of fire and brimstone, Rainier is located uncomfortably near one of the fastest-growing population and technology centers in the nation.

The other unsettling thing about Mount Rainier is…well…it just IS. It looms over Seattle and dozens of other communities, smaller mountains, forests, and waterways. While all of the Cascade Range and the Olympic Mountains (across Puget Sound) are majestic and imposing, Rainier’s presence is extraordinary. In the first few days of living in Seattle, the mountain continually caught me off guard. We’d be riding a city bus, shopping in the historic waterfront market, or walking in the park, and suddenly the mountain would command my attention, unbidden and uncompromising. It was always there, even when I was too busy too notice.

That’s when I realized how God uses his creation to reveal himself to us. We rush around all day with our smart phones and lattes (this is Seattle, after all), too distracted to “lift up [our] eyes to the mountains.” (Ps. 121:1) Then without warning, we’re called out of our self-interest to acknowledge something beyond ourselves, something so grand as to be almost incomprehensible, something we did not create, but which looms over us though we choose to ignore it.

Mount Rainier is beautiful to behold, and, when we choose to stop and contemplate it, peaceful and comforting. It reminds us of a greater beauty, peace, and comfort than that which we create in our daily lives. But the mountain will not sleep forever, and will someday roar to life and call everyone who lives beneath its majestic slopes to an accounting. When that day comes, we will all acknowledge Mount Rainier, no matter how busy and important we are.

“But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. In those days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day that Noah entered the ark. They did not know until the flood came and carried them all away. So will it be at the coming of the Son of Man.” (Matthew 24:36-39)

Alex Hill

Alex Hill

Director of music and liturgy