The mountain where Jesus was transfigured has a spiritual link to the Eucharist.
Read more: What is a monstrance?
Catholics firmly believe that Jesus is truly present in the consecrated host and that his “real presence” is hidden under the appearances of bread. In this way, Eucharistic adoration is a deeply intimate devotion, involving a “face-to-face” encounter with Jesus Christ.
In some churches the monstrance that holds the Eucharistic host is placed on a stand on the altar. This is primarily a practical consideration, as it raises the monstrance higher, thereby allowing a better view for the congregation kneeling or sitting in the pews.
At the same time, a deeper meaning is revealed in the name sometimes given to these special stands — they are called a “tabor” or “thabor.” It’s uncertain when this name became associated with these stands, but likely in the past century. This appellation is important and contains a depth of spiritual meaning.
The word “tabor” is a direct reference to Mt. Tabor, the mountain traditionally believed to be the place where Jesus was transfigured before three of his closest apostles. The mountain is not named explicitly by the Gospel writers, who only refer to it as “a high mountain” (Matthew 17:1). However, local tradition concerning Mt. Tabor can be traced back to the early centuries of Christianity and so it is a likely candidate for the Gospel event.
During Jesus’ transfiguration, Peter was astonished to see the glory of the Lord and said to him, “Lord, it is well that we are here; if you wish, I will make three booths here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah” (Matthew 17:4).
In some translations, the word for “booth” is translated as “tabernacle.” This is essentially the same word, though in Christian usage the word “tabernacle” has become associated almost exclusively with the box where the consecrated Eucharistic hosts are kept inside the church.
Read more: What is a tabernacle?
Peter wanted to contain the glory of God in a “tabernacle” in a similar way to how the glory of God’s presence is contained in the Eucharistic host.
John Paul II beautifully illustrated this spiritual connection in a homily on the Feast of the Transfiguration in 1999.
Today, the Eucharist which we are preparing to celebrate takes us in spirit to Mount Tabor together with the Apostles Peter, James, and John, to admire in rapture the splendor of the transfigured Lord. In the event of the Transfiguration we contemplate the mysterious encounter between history, which is being built every day, and the blessed inheritance that awaits us in heaven in full union with Christ, the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.
We, pilgrims on earth, are granted to rejoice in the company of the transfigured Lord when we immerse ourselves in the things of above through prayer and the celebration of the divine mysteries.
As a result, the monstrance stand is intimately linked both to the Transfiguration and the Eucharist. The “tabor” elevates Jesus in the Eucharist, much as Mt. Tabor did, and allows others to see the beauty and glory of God that shines forth from the Eucharistic host.
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