The Transfiguration

Transfiguration-Seiger Koder

The Transfiguration of Jesus on the holy mountain is a glimpse of how we can be taken up into God, how God will dwell in us, and fill us with His glory – as our souls are made ready.  It is the vision of what is called our deification – not our becoming God, but God indwelling us.

This moment should remind us of an event in the life of Moses.  When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of stone containing the Ten Commandments – the Scripture says, “the skin of [Moses’] face shone because he had been talking with God.  And when Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him.”  [Ex 34]

But if we compare the result of Moses’ encounter with God with our Lord’s Transfiguration, we see that it is qualitatively different.  Moses was transformed as if from without and it affected the exposed skin of his face.

Under the Old Covenant, we have impressed upon us, from without, something of God’s glory.  It is what happens to us as we are exposed to the teaching of the Law of love and seek to conform our lives to the ways of love.  It will affect the outward appearance of our lives in a good way but leaves us also wanting more, desiring the transforming of our hearts as we realize a battle going on within ourselves that we can only lose on our own – As St Paul describes it, “For [we] do not do the good [we] want, but the evil [we] do not want is what [we] do.”

Yet in the case of Jesus, the radiance was pouring forth from within Him– not only did His face shine like the sun, but all his clothes were dazzling brightness.  No veil could ever hide it!

Under the New Covenant, God transfigures us from within by His indwelling us – not only our outward actions change, but our hearts.  The glory of God that appeared in the tabernacle in the Old Covenant when it was properly ordered, is the glory that appears more and more in our hearts, in our souls, under the New Covenant as our lives are ordered by grace.

Imagine having nothing anymore to hide, nothing to be ashamed of or to regret, and also nothing lacking in our personhood, complete fulfillment (– where Christ is all in all).  This is the glorified life God is preparing each of us for and which He is beginning to communicate to us, to share with us, even in this present earthly life.

Do you see how full of hope and how full of love, our Gospel is today? [Mt 17:1-9]

St John captures it when he says, “See what kind of love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! …what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” [1 John 3:1-2]

Are we ready for the glory to be revealed to us and in us?

The revelation of God’s glory at the Transfiguration of Jesus was overpowering to the Disciples:

  • Matthew records that “they fell on their faces, and were filled with awe.”
  • Mark says, “they were exceedingly afraid.”
  • Luke recounts that, “they were all heavy with sleep…and were afraid as they entered the cloud.”  The Disciples were sleepy not because they were tired from their journey to the mountaintop, but it was their souls shutting down in exhaustion because they were so weak and unprepared to contemplate the Divine.

And in this moment we catch a glimpse of the great mercy of God towards us – that God is veiled and draws near to us in Jesus Christ so that, in our unreadiness, we might not be destroyed or oppressed by His glory.  Yet God wants us not to back away but rather to draw near.  And on the mountain, Jesus, who finds the disciples unwilling to look, with their faces to the earth, touched them saying, “Rise and have no fear.”

The Father says we prepare ourselves, by listening to his Son.  St John says today, And everyone who thus hopes in Jesus, purifies himself as he is pure. [1 John 3:3]

Despite our spiritual weakness, despite the darknesses of our souls and our unreadiness, Jesus says to each of us today – “Rise and have no fear.”

Listening to Jesus, let us now prepare our souls through repentance and faith to be cleansed of our darkness, through His self-offering on the Cross, and not only made ready to see His glory, but to be glorified by His presence within us, filled with His light, as St Peter says, “partakers of the Divine nature,” … and so to shine as the Son and to bear witness to His glory to one another and to the whole world.

Amen +