By Sarah Cornwell
A Reading from the Gospel of Mark 9:2-13
2 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. 4And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 5Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” 8Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.
9 As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead could mean. 11Then they asked him, “Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” 12He said to them, “Elijah is indeed coming first to restore all things. How then is it written about the Son of Man, that he is to go through many sufferings and be treated with contempt? 13But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written about him.”
Today’s gospel reading begins with “six days later,” which, in a great economy of words, sets up the cosmic context for the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ. Origen, in his commentary on the parallel account of the Transfiguration in the Gospel of St. Matthew, writes:
In six days (the very number denoting perfect fulfillment) the whole world, this perfect work of art, was made. But there is one who transcends all the things of the world…
That is Jesus Christ. He is eternal, out of time, existing before all things were made and to whom all those created things are subject. He entered into time to lead his own up, so that we may witness the timeless reality of God, beyond all worlds. The past, represented in Moses and Elijah, is with Jesus in the present, but he is also transfigured, manifesting a future glory beyond anything we’ve known.
Jesus chooses Peter, James, and John to accompany him, the same three that he later chooses to accompany him in the Garden of Gethsemane. We know these disciples are not perfect. On the mountain, they lose their cool and become terrified. Later, in the garden, they fall asleep. Peter, James, and John show us that to walk with Jesus and be led up on high can be a terrifying and exhausting journey. And yet we want to be chosen by Jesus. We long for the eternal, where we may behold our Lord in all of his glory. This world is truly a work of art. And yet there is still more. Let us strive to remember that after all the glory of the six days, there came a seventh. Let us strive to remember that what we see in our present is not all there is, and follow Jesus up into the high mountain.
Sarah Cornwell is a laywoman, ballet teacher, and an associate of the Eastern Province of the Community of St. Mary. She and her husband have six children and they live in the Hudson Valley north of New York City.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
The Diocese of Amritsar (Church of North India)
Christ & St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, New York, N.Y.