When we passed through the mist and at least reached The Cave of St. Michael, I somehow felt that it was, like Monte Cassino, a place of unfathomable spiritual significance. Above ground, everything was swathed in a layer of cloud; entering the cave seemed like stepping behind the cloud. The rough, natural roof seemed to lower overhead like a solid, dark storm cloud, and incongruously at the edge of this, like a temple on a mountain, was carved out a beautiful altar and sanctuary. Behind the altar, a marble St. Michael, white and gold, raised his sword with an air of power and calm, to strike the demon cowering miserably at his feet. Beside him, and in many other places about the Cave, was etched out the battle-cry that once echoed in heaven: Quis ut Deus?—“Who is like God?”
Undoubtedly, that was the spiritual connection between the two holy places, the mountain and the cavern, Cassino and the Cave. They were sacred with the presence of God, raised high on the mountaintop and separated from the world, shrouded with mist as with a veil because what is sacred always ought to be shrouded, like Moses conversing with God on Mount Sinai, or the presence of God in the Cloud guarding the Israelites, or the closed golden door of the Tabernacle in church. And somehow, there was a fitting fear I felt as we approached each place, an uncanny hesitancy and doubt that accompanied me as we entered the mist. I could not identify it at the time, but I knew it had something to do with unknowing, with not being able to see what was ahead of me in the fog. Now, as I think of another holy mountaintop, where Christ revealed Himself in His glory, I know why I had simultaneously a sense of the sacredness and the fearfulness of both Monte Cassino and Monte Sant’Angelo. We cannot see God fully on earth; we cannot know what lies ahead of us in the future. Yet, we must trust Him totally and step forward knowing that while we pursue Him, we tread on holy ground, even when we cannot see the pathway. We must follow Him, search for Him; even if it means, like Benedict, abandoning the world and climbing the mountain, or embarking on a pilgrimage to holy sites like the Cave of St. Michael, to remind ourselves why we are following the light of Christ in dark and clouded times. It is the same reason that Jesus revealed His glory to His disciples on the mountain of the Transfiguration, to strengthen them for the days of darkness ahead.