"And He was transfigured
In the old days we used to think of the Season of the Trinity as pretty boring, scarcely relieved by the few brief feasts that enlivened what were for us here, the drab days of autumn and the busy days of spring. The Season is now known as Pentecost, but the drabness tends to remain. This is the long season of ferial sundays, the plod time of the Christian year.. or is it ? Is there something more that lies behind this apparently quiet time?
The feasts - and the Saints Days say something different, and if their setting is drab, the theme should stand out the more vividly. For the major feasts of August, The Transfiguration, The Dormition of Our Lady, and the Beheading of John the Baptist (what? I hear you cry!) Have something deeply in common with the 'ordinary weeks' of this pale end of the churches' year. Of course, the Transfiguration is the key to it all.
The first important thing to notice about this feast is that this time Jesus took his disciples aside, went away with them, far away from distractions and all other things. The Other Great Theophany is Epiphany, where the Wise Men came to him, and were able to discern His real nature in the form of a baby in the animals' food bin, in poverty and dire need. The Wise men had, already, their sight cleared and their attention focussed.
I do not believe for one moment that Jesus himself 'changed' at the transfiguration. Though it may have been so. For me, every moment of his long walk he was no different from that Glorious being whose face shone like the sun. But the disciples, and others could not and did not see that. They heard his words, they saw what he did, and they were involved to the point of giving up their normal lives. But in some ways the awesome otherness, the meaning of what he was saying was hidden, or perhaps washed over them like water off a ducks back, as it does for us in the season of Trinity.
In those three days alone with Him however, nothing was a distraction. In those three days the disciples found themselves and their awareness peeled of all the daily grime and sophistication that cluttered their perception. They listened to him speak, and not what others had to say about it. Nothing interrupted, and eventually not even their minds interrupted.
They saw Him as He is. Not as He was, a man who exists in all time and space. They saw Him in the moment that He spoke with Moses and Turned his back on Elijah, and it was the same moment in which
Not Him, them. Not Him, us.
This moment of transfiguration shows us how the world really is. What human life is meant to be. In the drab time of the long season of trinity we are meant to turn our eyes away from false excitement, story telling, waving branches in the air, and all the other things that have told us the story. This is the time when we have to set about the grim process of living our own lives without drama. And as we shed the drama, we begin to perceive the life. As we grow still, and even bored we grow very close to the borders of perception, and the more still and the more quiet we become the deeper and closer grace becomes.
We've all experienced those marvellous moments when 'out of the blue' the world comes alive, a bird sings and the very trees around us become vivid with freshness. Times when we are suddenly overwhelmed by the beauty of a person or an object which has been near us for years.
Transfiguration is about us changing, changing our nature, so that we begin to see through the half casually dismissed bread of our sandwiches into the heart of bread which gives its life that we may live. There, in our daily life. Jesus in our hands at lunch time, really present, given in time and in loving attention. Transfiguration is about realizing that we are receiving love himself at every instant of the day, whether we are 'good' or 'bad' or happy or sad. We ourselves give God to each other when we give - anything of ourselves graciously or ungraciously.
At the heart of all our drab lives is gift.
Peter wanted to stay there, and I for one don't blame him. I would sit all the days of my life in the place where the dew sat fresh and singing on the branch. But their task and ours is to carry back that truth into what the world calls reality. To carry 'that' world and that perception regardless of the poor mad boy waiting for us at the foot of the hill, regardless of the lack of change in the world.
For to those who perceive the Transfiguration, their own nature is unavoidable, and not all the clack and clatter of apparent reality will ever totally obscure that again.
We are told to be in the world but not of it. I have suggested that to be truly in the world - as Peter and James and John were in the world at the moment of Transfiguration, is to carry back a seed, a grain of yeast that can begin to transform the 'world' around us in its perception of itself.
We are not meant to pass our
lives among these drab and mean minded shells that we are so content to
call 'real'. Our Real Lives are so much more - and so much less.
For we, like Jesus really live in a world that transcends time and space. A world of beauty and freshness. It is still there, though the forces and forms of this world will do their best to snatch it away from us.
It is still there.
Alleluia ! Alleluia !