The Transfiguration of our Lord, August 6
Address God. Remind God what he has done. Tell God to do it again, adding a pious adverb and a Triune closing punctuated by a strong Amen. “O God,” drawing up to speech the unspeakable mystery, a lineage of successive creations back in and before time, and yet present as the eternal now, the One who holds all things in being by love and leads them to a consummation in which the God who is above all will be through all and in all (Eph. 4:6).
Once in time on a holy mountain, God revealed to certain chosen witnesses the transfigured face of his own Son, a body wrapped in white and glistening raiment. Peter, John, and James, though weighed down by sleep, remained awake to see this glory. Moses and Elijah, preeminent figures of the Law and the Prophets, appeared also, speaking to Jesus about his glory and departure. Cloud cover then obscured the scene, and a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” (Luke 9:35).
It happened once, but once for all. “Mercifully grant that we, being delivered from the disquietude of this world, may by faith behold the King in his beauty” (Collect for the Transfiguration). We are where Peter, John, and James were. We are on the mountain with Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. We feel the fatigue of the world and yet glimpse a glory beyond imagining, and we hear a voice saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him.” And we know that “it is good to be here.” So be it. Amen.
Are we, as the collect pleads, “delivered from the disquietude of this world” by a vision of Jesus transfigured in blazing glory? Yes. As sons and daughters of God who are drawn up into the life of God’s only begotten, we are not only with Jesus, but “in Christ.” The heat of his face and his luminous vestments are a truth we should know and feel about ourselves. Grace imputes this scene on all the baptized, signing us as Christ’s own forever, sharers in the divine nature. “It is good that we are here — here where all things shine with divine radiance, where there is joy and gladness and exultation; where there is nothing in our hearts but peace, serenity and stillness; where God is seen” (Anastasius of Sinai, Sermon on the Transfiguration). It is good to be delivered from the disquietude of this world, to feel the weight of eternal glory.
And yet it is better still not to grasp this moment, not to insist that it blot out the words concerning Jesus’ departure from the world. His death and his glory are but one and the same mystery, his descent among the living and his journey among the dead are the raw material of a glorious resurrection. We go with him down to death and we rise with him in every moment of every day until we breathe our last. Some moments, some days, some seasons will seem like the rule of death. Some moments, days, and times will feel like a long Easter sunrise, radiant, luminous, and beautiful. Most days will be a mixture of both. We could almost say there are two ways of knowing Christ. “One in faith, another by sight; one in the time of our pilgrimage, another in the eternal habitations; one in labor, another in rest; one on the way, another in our true home, one in action, another in the reward of contemplation” (St. Augustine, Commentary on the Gospel of John, Tract 124). God has mixed these two ways in Christ.
Jesus shines and groans and weeps. He dies and rises again. We are the body in which this happens.
Look It Up
Read Luke 9:28-36 and imagine witnessing the Transfiguration.
Think About It
How might memories of the Transfiguration have shaped the lives of Peter, John, and James even years later?