The Mount of the Transfiguration of Jesus is not too far from the Sea of Galilee. From every direction it rises distinctively from the plain landscape as a solitary hill.
In the same way the account of the Transfiguration of Jesus rises up (it seems) from nowhere in the Gospels. We have Jesus preaching, teaching and performing miracles that have an effect on some but not on others. Then, all of a sudden, Jesus is speaking with the Old Testament prophets Moses and Elijah. And his clothes become “dazzlingly white, whiter than any earthly bleacher could make them”.
Our contemporary and practical minds struggle with such a dramatic divine event. Perhaps the account we have was just ‘dreamed up’ by the writers who reinterpreted a mountain-top moment with Jesus ‘through the prism of the resurrection’? Maybe we prefer to dismiss the Transfiguration of Jesus as a bit of unnecessary magic?
Let’s not give in to the temptation of such a pragmatic response. Remember “magic” just seems to happen, it does not actually occur. Magic doesn’t actually change anything.
Instead, in the Transfiguration of Jesus, we are encountering the miraculous power of God present in earthly time and place. Miracles not only seem to happen. Miracles are really reality – in fact a greater reality than the lesser happenings that we call ‘real world’. The Transfiguration of Jesus is the event that opens the door between earthly ordinariness, (days and weeks of routine and mundane, anxious existence), and the divine eternity. In this moment Peter, James and John got a taste of something more; so much so that they could not even put it into words and did not speak of the event when they went down the mountain. This is what happens every time we celebrate the Mass. The door between heaven and earth is thrown open by God. We express our struggle and our sin and God responds by pouring grace onto and into us. We become anew a part of the divine life of God. When we leave the church after Mass we are not the same. Like Peter James and John we struggle to put this into words. We are not even really sure what has happened. Sometimes we don’t even know if anything happened. Often we feel no different.
The fact is, we have tasted heaven. In the most tangible form of communion, heaven has come INTO us. We are different, and because of this, even though we go home into the same reality and relationships, every moment of the week ahead is different. We are never alone. God is with us.
Top, the Mount of the Transfiguration rises from the plain
and below a quiet spot over the fence from the Monastery on the hilltop.
Readings for the Feast of the Transfiguration