By Ken Asel
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, 3 and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. 4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 5 Then 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.” 6 He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7 Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” 8 Suddenly 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. 10 So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead could mean. 11 Then they asked him, “Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” 12 He 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? 13 But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written about him.”
The first thing one notices at the Roman Catholic Shrine of the Transfiguration in Israel is that the bus stops, and everyone must disembark. At the base of Mt. Tabor there is an arch, too low for the bus to proceed to the top of the mountain, and the archway leading to the Franciscan church is said to be the spot where Jesus took Peter, James, and John to the summit. There, it is believed, Jesus’ appearance was altered and he shone like a brilliant star. We know the story well. Our Lord’s Father speaks, repeating the words at Jesus’ baptism, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” Perhaps this is not a spot for a bus to rumble over after all.
The apostles are also joined by Elijah and Moses, symbols of faithful Jewish religion for thousands of years. Terrified, Peter, James, and John fall on their faces. When they arise, only Jesus remains. On the way down the mountain Jesus asks the apostles to keep this event private, for at least awhile. Legend has it that they were discreet (not the disciples’ strong suit), but after the resurrection, the story of transfiguration on Mt. Tabor was told and interpreted until the present day. The apostles knew Jesus as a wise teacher, prophet, and miracle-worker. This day he was revealed as much more. I look upon this event as perhaps the beginning of Christian spirituality and meditation, as the Son of Man was much more than anyone ever imagined.
Today there are three chapels inside the Church of the Transfiguration: the Roman Catholic shrine administered by Franciscans and small chapels dedicated to Elijah and Moses, where non-Roman Catholics may gather for group prayer. Someday, perhaps in time, may we all be able to come to his altar and share Holy Eucharist as one family. As Jesus was revealed on Mt. Tabor as being one with the Father, may we all be revealed as being one in him.
(The Reverend) J. Kenneth Asel, D.Min. is a retired priest from the Diocese of Wyoming. Devvie and he have been married for 30 years and have recently relocated again to the West and the Front Range.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
St. Martin’s by the Lake Episcopal Church, Minnetonka Beach, Minn.
The Diocese of Dornakal (Church of South India)