I live close to the Blue Ridge Parkway, a two-lane road that goes along the top of the mountains from my hometown, Waynesboro, to the Cherokee Indian Reservation in North Carolina. One of my favorite spots on the Parkway is Humpback Rocks. From the parking lot, it’s a two mile trek to the top. At the top, the Blue Ridge Mountain range and the Shenandoah Valley spreads before you and what a view it is.

I use to go up there on a regular basis. I was a young man then and in much better shape. There was a time when I began to be pleased with how quickly I could go up to the top without stopping. Well, pride goes before a fall. One day I was going along at a nice pace when I heard a sound behind me. A soft voice said, “Pardon me, sonny.” I turned around and a little gray haired lady with a walking stick passed by me like I was in walking in reverse. Even worse, she was carrying a nicely loaded backpack.  Watching her move off down the trail, I found a bench and sat down. Obviously, this was one girl who was dedicated to walking the path. That was almost 40 years ago. I imagine she’s up there still.

Living in the mountains, spiritual life has always seemed like traveling to the top of Humpback Rocks.  It takes a lot of effort to reach the top. Since it takes effort, I’m usually content to just admire from the bottom of the mountain.

At almost every Liturgy, we read or make reference to the Beatitudes. We love to hear about things like meekness, and purity. But what we see is a path that leads to the top of the mountain, and knowing the effort required, we are loathe to begin the journey.

How I admire the saints, but I only admire them. It seems to me that it takes too much effort to get to where they are. Obviously, they had something that I just don’t have. They must have been religious geniuses or spiritual athletes and there’s no way that I can ever be like them.

Some years ago, there was a pop christian song out called “Grand Canyon.” The lyrics proposed that when looking at the Lord, its like standing at the bottom of the Grand Canyon and looking one mile up to someone at the top of the ridge. Well, I dont need to try to look for the Lord at the top, I just look at  my patron, St. John Maximovitch. Theres a grand canyon between us and he’s at the top. So, the saints just must have had something special.

Actually no!  They simply refused to stop repenting until they reached the top of the mountain. I heard this definition the other day. A saint is one who always gets up when he falls. Once on the path, they would not stop climbing.  I climb a little and get out of breath. I fall and wallow in despair. I repent a little and then give up. So, it’s become so much easier to just to admire the saints than try to be like them.

Though your leg muscles may strain and you find yourself out of breath, walk the path. Even if you must walk slowly and occasionally stop to catch your breath, don’t give up.  It’s enough that you are on the path. As the book of Hebrews says, God loves a “pilgrim people.”  Pilgrims are people who haven’t arrived yet, but are dedicated to the journey. They are confessors.

Let me remind you that if you’ve been walking the path to holiness and your feeling pretty fit, don’t be surprised if you find yourself being passed by a sweet old girl with a backpack. Don’t give up; keep going because when you reach the top  – man, what a view! Then you can have a nice chat and a cup of  tea with the sweet old lady!

One Response to “Mountaintop”

  1. George Says:

    John, This is great reading! I “admire” you brother Moses.

    – George (Long Live “The Draftsmen”)

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