The Teacher calls an inner circle of His disciples into the depth of Himself. To do this, He takes them up a high mountain, a favourite place for a meeting with God. Here, He is transfigured into light. The ‘three’ are given an astonishing gift – to see Jesus, the Beloved Son, in communion with His Abba. The gift is given so that they might grow in their desire to follow Jesus. It hasn’t been easy for them. What they are seeing is for their benefit.
But then more is given. Elijah and Moses arrive. They too like high mountains. In their own way they went there to talk with God and to find the wisdom to make God’s plan work with people who were highly resistant to them. Speaking on behalf of the ‘three’, Peter exclaims that it is great to be part of this event. But these are the words of someone who feels he is in over his head. The One they were shadowing is now even more attractive and, at the same time, a little bit scary!
Then even more is given. A cloud descends and now God is shadowing them. This is probably as close as you’re going to get to God. And then God speaks. He reveals the true name of this Jesus. It is the same name that was given at His Baptism in the Jordan, ‘My Son, the Beloved’. For disciples, this is a call to listen more attentively to what the Beloved Son is saying. This is the revelation.
And then, the moment of Grace ends, as they must. Now all they have is Jesus and the truth about Him. The vision has strengthened their understanding of Jesus as God’s Beloved Son and the inheritor of the law and the prophets. They know that Jesus has God’s seal of approval, but they have yet to understand the divine plan. Somehow, this is tied to the rather mysterious question of the Son of Man “rising from the dead”. And so, until they understand both the identity of Jesus and the divine plan, they are charged to be silent. They are, and yet they try to solve the puzzle amongst themselves. As do we!
I wonder if we might come closer to understanding in this way. Those who turn away from God are left in communities of loneliness. Loneliness brings panic, and, in their panic, people will try anything to fill the void they have made in their own lives. Grace reverses this process. People grounded in God do not know what it is like to be separated. Their communion fills them and propels them outwards. Instead of trying to grab and hold, they find joy in giving themselves. And here they discover one of life’s strangest truths, that the source of life is always available to those who walk with generous hearts before God. These are the ones who bring strength and healing to a broken and troubled world.
In the Transfiguration narrative Jesus radiates outwards. This is the sign of His communion with God. Neither God nor Jesus abandon this troubled world or her troubled people. They move in sync to restore what was lost. This is what disciples are meant to understand. That feeling grounded and at home and flowing into the world with compassion and blessing, they find a deeper compassion and more abundant blessing. Thus, they are transfigured with Christ.
Cyprian Smith states the case beautifully: “It is possible for human beings, living, thinking and acting in God, to think, see and do as God does. Instead of standing within the created world, looking in it for signs of a God who is outside it, we stand within God and it is the world that now appears outside, we are greater than it. It appears as a pale and imperfect reflection of the dazzling and brilliant truth in which we are living and making our home”.
(The Way of Paradox: Spiritual Life as Taught by Meister Eckhart.)