Who Are the Saints?

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Saturday of the Sixth Week of the Year I
Mark 9:2–13

Jesus Alone With His Friends

Who are the saints? The saints are those who allow themselves to be taken by Jesus “up a high mountain apart by themselves” (Mk 9:2). The saints are those who accept the invitation of the Master to go with him to a place of solitude and to remain with him there. The saints are those who, leaving behind what is familiar and reassuring, choose the company of Jesus alone — a wondrous and fearful thing — amazed that Jesus has chosen to be alone with them. “It is not you who seek my company,” he says, “it is who seek yours.”

Those to Whom God Speaks Face to Face

The saints are the blessed companions of Moses to whom “the Lord used to speak face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Ex 33:11). They are the friends of Elijah fed by an angel in the wilderness (1 K 19:5-7): Elijah to whom God spoke not in a great wind, nor in an earthquake, nor in fire, but in “a still small voice” (1 K 19:13).

Seekers of the Face of God

The saints are those in whom the prayer of David is a ceaseless murmur by day and by night: “It is your face, O Lord, that I seek; hide not your face from me” (Ps 26:8-9). The saints are those before whom Jesus shows himself transfigured, “his garments glistening, intensely white” (Mk 9:3), his face “shining like the sun” (Mt 17:2) — and this as “in a mirror darkly” (1 Cor 13:12). The saints are those who, having caught a glimpse of “the fairest of the sons of men” (Ps 44:2) cannot detach their gaze from his face, those who live with their eyes fixed in his.

It is Beautiful That We Are Here

The saints are those content to abide in perfect stillness close to the One who loved them first. “Master, it is beautiful that we are here” (Mk 9:5). “O Lord, I love the habitation of thy house, and the place where thy glory abides” (Ps 15:8). And again, “What have I in heaven but thee? And there is nothing upon earth that I desire besides thee . . . . For me it is good to be near God” (Ps 72:28).

Like the Chalice Beneath Its Veil

The saints are those covered by the “overshadowing of the cloud” (cf. Mk 9:7), hidden like the chalice beneath its veil. The saints are those to whom the Father says at every moment: “This is my beloved Son, listen to him” (Mk 9:7). The saints are those who, while seeing everyone and everything, see “only Jesus” (Mk 9:8).

The Saints With Us

Who are these saints? Lift your eyes for a moment and look across the choir. See your brother, your sister. The saints of every remote “there and then” were once the saints of a very immediate “here and now.” There is no “here and now” in which God cannot fashion saints for the praise of his glory. There is no “here and now” that cannot be, for each of us, the high mountain, the “place apart.”

Set Apart

The meaning of the word “saint” is “one set apart.” The Apostle Peter says, “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 P 2:9). The light of God is a refreshing light, a gentle light; it is the light that shines from the face of his Christ. “For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor 4:6). There is not one of us who is not set apart and called into the light.

The Light That Shines From the Face of Christ

The light that shines from the face of Christ exposes our sins only to make them evaporate like the morning dew. “Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance” (Ps 89:8). The light that shines from that face reaches the secret places within us where we dare not go: the subterranean caves of the heart where fearful dragons dwell. The light that shines from that face cleanses the soul of old filth accumulated in corners that we ourselves cannot reach. The light that shines from that face heals every ancient wound, and like a beacon, sets even the most restless soul on course toward the quiet harbour of love.

Seek There His Face

Where is the light of his face to be found? Is there light for us when with the psalmist we are wont to say, “Thou hast caused lover and friend to shun me; my one companion is darkness” (Ps 89:18)? Even in the darkest hours there is light for each of us in the opening of the Scriptures and in the opening of the tabernacle. In the one as in the other there “breaks forth a beauteous heavenly light to usher in the morning.” Lectio divina and Eucharistic adoration are, for each of us, the indispensable “places apart,” the places of our cleansing, healing, and transfiguration.

Fear

What then keeps us from going to the place apart where the transfigured Christ waits to transfigure us in the light of his face? What prevents us from saying with the psalmist, “I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a child quieted at its mother’s breast” (Ps 130:2)? Mostly fear, I should think. Fear of the silence. Fear of the stillness. Fear of divine intimacy. Fear of what may happen. Fear of what we may discover in God or in ourselves. Fear of what God may change in us. Fear of what God may ask, or take, or show us.

Only Jesus

This is where the saints come in, and first among them, the Blessed Virgin Mary. The saints, configured to Christ, speak the words of Christ, and so say to us with one voice: “Rise, and have no fear” (Mt 17:7). And if we heed them, lifting up our eyes, we like them will see no one, “but only Jesus” (Mt 17:8).

3 Comments

I think there is another primary human condition besides fear which prevents us from seeking out the Lord - forgetfulness! Like the Israelities who forgot the wonders of the parting of the Red Sea and the apostles who forgot the breaking of the loaves to feed the thousands - we forget that the Lord will welcome us with comfort and care. We remember our weariness of this world and we do not recall that the Lord will provide coolness in the heat and pour dew on our dryness.
May this Lent provide us with many opportunities to be reminded of the constant invitation of our Lord 'stay with me.'
Thank you, Father for this post and may we always "Bless God in His angels and in His saints."

Dear Lisa is right. (She usually is!) There is also forgetfulness. We do forget where to go, and whom to seek. And yes, "Blessed be God in His angels and in His saints."

"I firmly wish that my face reflecting the intimate pains of my soul, the suffering and love of my heart, be more honored! Whoever gazes upon me already consoles me." (Our Lord Jesus Christ to Sister Pierina)

How I long to gaze upon Thy face O Lord...be merciful and show me the beauty of Thy countenance!

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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