Transfiguration, Community, Life, Work, and Prayer
Today is the Feast of the Transfiguration. What does that mean and how can that possibly be relevant to modern life as we know it? Well let’s start with a biblical passage and work our way back to the relevance of this event. First a little background.
In Lesser Feasts and Fasts, a book used by the Episcopal Church in commemorating special days of the liturgical calendar, it is stated that the Transfiguration of Our Lord is “…one of a series of supernatural manifestations, by which god authenticated Jesus as his Son. It is at one with the appearance of the angels at the birth and at his resurrection, and with the descent of the Spirit at Jesus’ baptism…Briefly the veil is drawn aside, and a chosen few are permitted to see Jesus , not only as the earth born son of Mary, but as the eternal Son of God. (In this vein it is interesting to note that in the paintings of the baroque artists they typically used the colors red and blue when painting Jesus and his mother Mary. Jesus was always depicted as wearing a red undergarment with a blue over garment which was a representation that God (red) became Man (blue). Mary was depicted in the opposite with a blue undergarment and a red over garment representing the fact that she was human upon whom God like qualities had been bestowed.) Moses and Elijah witness to Jesus as the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. In Saint Luke’s account of the event, they speak of the “exodus” which Jesus is to accomplish at Jerusalem. A cloud, a sign of divine presence, envelops the disciples, and a heavenly voice proclaims Jesus to be the Son of God.” Note: the cloud symbolism is pervasive throughout the Old Testament and the presence of the cloud is referred to as the “Glory of the Lord”. People could not look upon the face of God directly and live, but they could see and behold the cloud in which he dwelled and which was referred to as the “Glory of the Lord”. This can be made into an argument for using incense in a worship service as the smoke from the incense calls to mind the Divine Presence in the cloud as experienced by the ancient Hebrews.
So transfiguration is an event by which God authenticates Jesus, so let’s turn to Luke’s Gospel which is appointed to be read on this day of the feast”
28 Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter, and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. As he was praying, the appearance of his countenance was altered and his raiment became dazzling white. And behold, two men talked with him, Moses and Elijah who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy in sleep and when they wakened they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. And as the men were parting from him Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is well that we are here; let us make three booths, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah – not knowing what he said. As he said this a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. And a voice came out of the cloud saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen, listen to him!…
I believe that St Julian of Norwich had it right in that she believed that the driving force in all our lives is to become, once again, united to our creator- and that we strive to that end even when we fail to realize what that end is. In our daily life and struggle we have moments when “briefly the veil is drawn aside” and we see God at least “through a glass darkly” and are transfigured by the experience. How we come to these moments of transfiguration depends on how we go about our life, work and prayer. We can live, work, and pray in isolation or we can work live and pray in community. I have found the later to be much more conducive to finding God and thereby transfiguration. This brings us to a passage in the Second Letter of Peter also appointed for reading today.
16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty, For when he received honor and glory from God the Father and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” we heard this voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain, And we have the prophetic word made more sure. You will do well to pay attention to this as to a lamp shinning in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.
What I see in this Letter of Saint Peter is a clear statement that trying to discern the will of God on your own is a fool’s errand. It is in our interaction with others in our daily life, work, and prayer that best will lead us to God’s will and revelation. Living working and praying in community leads to peace, hope and love. As we support one another in these three things we build ourselves and open ourselves to God’s voice. Maybe it will not come through a cloud or a “transfiguration” maybe it will come in the form of the voice of your friend, or spouse, or family member. Be vigilant and be awake!