When Jesus Shows Up

I am re-blogging a meditation from the Daily Devotional published by The Living Chruch Foundation by permission.  This meditation explores the theological implications of the minor theme of Raphael’s famous work The Transfiguration and is written by priest friend Emily Hylden.  I must confess that when viewing this work I tend to simply ignore its second theme involving the exorcism of the young man possessed by a demon. It is now clear to me that it is an important theme emphasizing a very important theological principle concerning our nature as Christians.   With Christ in Glory we need no longer fear our direct contact with God or feel obligated to veil our faces.  We are now assured of our acceptance despite our brokenness and sin. I start this entry with a view of Raphael’s entire work and then reproduce the meditation which begins with the detail showing the attempt by the Apostles to exorcise the demon to no avail.  The meditation then follows as published.

The Transfiguration

Artist Raphael
Year 1516–20
Type Tempera on wood
Dimensions 405 cm × 278 cm (159 in × 109 in)
Location Pinacoteca Vaticana, Vatican Cit




When Jesus Shows Up
Daily Devotional • February 7 • Transfiguration Sunday
By the Rev. Emily R. Hylden

The Transfiguration, by Raphael; the Vatican Museum Rome; image via Rodney/Flickr

What are you hiding?

In Raphael’s painting of the Transfiguration, a detail of which is captured here, the great artist includes the story that follows the Transfiguration proper in the Gospel of Luke. A demon-possessed boy cannot manage to be freed by his evil captors until Jesus arrives; the apostles who had been left down the mountain when a few went on the transcendent hike had tried without success to cast the demon out of the child.

On this Transfiguration Sunday, as it is celebrated in churches around the globe (not to be confused with the Feast of the Transfiguration, celebrated on August 6), Jesus is revealed in divine glory. This moment is echoed by Moses’ shining face on the mountain after speaking with God and receiving the law; it is a moment that fulfills the other and makes Jesus’ divinity clear to his contemporary and future disciples.

Moses’ face is veiled when he comes back down the mountain from his encounter with the divine, but disciples of the New Covenant are urged to stand with unveiled faces (2 Cor. 3:18). Veils often conceal and obscure, and while it is debated what exactly Moses’ veil concealed and from whom, it seems rather like fallen human nature to hide parts of ourselves from God and from each other.

Indeed, perhaps the disciples at the mountainside with their young, possessed charge, were frightened to be exposed as mere men (or to be unequal to the challenge, or to be of little faith, or a thousand other possibilities). Healing and wholeness comes when Jesus arrives, when Jesus is revealed in the flesh and as the Son of God. Because of Jesus, we may stand with our pockmarked, wrinkly, unveiled faces, allowing God’s glory to light them and cause our skin, ourselves, to shine.

2 Corinthians 3:7-18

Now if the ministry of death, chiseled in letters on stone tablets, came in glory so that the people of Israel could not gaze at Moses’ face because of the glory of his face, a glory now set aside, 8how much more will the ministry of the Spirit come in glory? 9For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, much more does the ministry of justification abound in glory! 10Indeed, what once had glory has lost its glory because of the greater glory; 11for if what was set aside came through glory, much more has the permanent come in glory!

12Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness, 13not like Moses, who put a veil over his face to keep the people of Israel from gazing at the end of the glory that was being set aside. 14But their minds were hardened. Indeed, to this very day, when they hear the reading of the old covenant, that same veil is still there, since only in Christ is it set aside. 15Indeed, to this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds; 16but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.17Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.

Daily Devotional is a ministry of the Living Church Foundation.
Image licensed via Creative Commons.


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