Today’s feast of the Transfiguration this year falls on a Sunday. What a gift!
I am sitting outside of the seminary during a torrential thunderstorm waiting for it to subside. It’s dark and the car is shaking. I am looking at this icon thinking of the scene in the Sunday Gospel. The three “core group” disciples, having just scaled a high mountain with Jesus, are suddenly overcome by this stunning vision of their Master suffused with blinding light, flanked by Moses and Elijah, overshadowed by the “bright cloud” of the Spirit and deeply shaken by the sound of the Father’s thundering voice commanding obedience to His Son’s teaching. This is a full-fledged theophany, an appearing of the deepest secret of God: Tri-unity abiding in our flesh.
The first reading from the Mass today punctuates the awesomeness of what is being manifest here on the mountain, the mystery that roars ceaselessly in heaven: the Ancient of Days, from whom uncreated fire ceaselessly surges, around whom all of creation is arrayed in worship and by whom all things are judged. In the moment of the Transfiguration, Jesus permitted the disciples to glimpse what is always true of Him as “God from God, Light from Light.” Terrifying and fascinating all at once. God.
The disciples in the icon bear the proper posture before a vision of God: free-falling. As Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī said so well, “to know God one must sell cleverness and purchase bewilderment.” Along with these three disciples, Moses, who spoke to God on the mountain “face to face” (Ex. 33:11), and Elijah, who hid his face at God’s appearing on a mountain (1 Kings 19:13) today invite us, through the sacred Scriptures, to prayerfully encounter the the human Face of God, Jesus Christ.
Dare to enter the mystery.