Friday, August 6, 2004

Office Readings for the Transfiguration

1 Kings 19:1–12
2 Corinthians 3:1–9, 18
Exodus 24:12–18
2 Corinthians 4:1–6
Daniel 7:9–10, 13–14
John 12:27–36a

We look today, with this wealth of readings (and these are just the ones appointed for the daily office, to say nothing of the Eucharistic lections!) at light and appearance. For that is what is in common to all these: the manifestation of God, now not in an Epiphany spirit, where the focus is on the fact of the manifestation and what is made manifest, but in a different spirit.

As Paul says, God has shone in our hearts. We bask, as it were, in reflected glory, glory multiply reflected. Moses’ face shone, with reflected glory, after he spoke with God, and God shines still more brightly in the face of Jesus Christ. The tradition says that the Transfiguration of Jesus on Mount Tabor was a vision of the uncreated light--the light which simply is God.

That light, at first, blinded Peter so that he spoke out so foolishly trying to contain it in a tent; rather like Moses and his veil to protect the Israelites from the fearsome sight. And the fearsome, awesome nature of this light, this Christ, is seen in Daniel’s vision also; first the Ancient One, whose throne was fiery flame and its wheels were burning fire and then the one like a human being comes, and everything there is is given to him. And that’s our Jesus!

But lest we get swept up into all this grandeur, we remember that the fourth gospel, the only one which does not actually depict the Transfiguration, gives us its most poignant description: And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself. For the Crucifixion and the Transfiguration are the same event, really; and for the Gospel of John especially is the Crucifixion the moment when Jesus’ true nature is most plainly manifest.

Amid all the court splendour, the burning bushes, the fiery thrones, we remember that the glory in question is not that of a great and powerful Oz, but that of a carpenter’s son, killed most ignominiously, in service and self-giving to others. And to hear that message, that sound of sheer silence we have to be stilled, and quiet, and patient. We must let the great wind, the earthquake, and the fire subside and pass by, and keep our gaze fixed on Jesus, who was lifted up for us.

And that is the knowledge which has shone in our hearts.

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