Jesus took Peter, John, and James
and went up a mountain to pray.
While he was praying his face changed in appearance
and his clothing became dazzling white.
And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah,
who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus
that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem.
Peter and his companions had been overcome by sleep,
but becoming fully awake,
they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. – Luke 9:28b-32
Last year on this Feast of Transfiguration, I wrote about the possibility of seeing that we too are God’s beloved children. Once again, I’m tempted to make the Gospel all about me.
(Isn’t that part of why we have a cycle of readings and feasts? So that we can keep checking in, year after year, and seeing where we are in relationship to the Tradition, and in relationship to God?)
Last week on the Feast of St Ignatius I wrote about learning to look, a sister skill of learning to see, which is what I am supposed to take from the readings today. But instead, what my heart is screaming at me is that I want to be transfigured – I want to be changed.
A few years ago things started shifting for me: I fell in love with someone not-near, and then I developed a chronic illness. I’ve figured out ways to manage this, by limiting my commitments, managing my time to allow for more travel, more rest, more yoga, more healthy eating. With a great job (more than one great job, actually), a great relationship, and supportive friends and family, I learned to manage the chaos.
Still there are days (such as a few days ago), when I spend most of my hours in tears, because two years of transition and uncertainty is too much for a person like me who craves stability. I never liked to live “wobbly”, and yet I’ve had to, and I fear that it is going to break me.
So for the last few months I’ve turned to the idol of magical thinking: what if my illness magically went away. What if the distance part of our long-distance relationship disappeared, and we could get down to just being in a long relationship? I’m sure this is normal, when you hit a wall of “managing” your life and want to be have the unmanageables removed so you can get back to just living your life rather than dodging it.
This is a long way of explaining why today’s Gospel has me imagining myself on the hill, not in the position of beholding but in the position of being transformed. If I could just find the right hill, if I could just climb high enough, I could be clothed in dazzling white rather than in the exhausted tatters that make up my wardrobe on the disappointed, hopeless days.
Because of this, I am ashamed. If I were harder on myself, I would accuse myself of idolatry, but I’ll grant myself some mercy because I believe God does the same thing. I just wish that I could wake up, like the disciples, and see the glory that is in front of me.
Virgil T. Morant says
Life’s Divinely overseen events have a way of taking place in an order that defies our intellectual grasp or our expectations. Even the created persons in the Transfiguration give us a sense of this. Peter, for instance, famously stumbled in big ways–a man who had beheld the Lord in all His glory. Moses too exhibited his frailties–back in the old days before the Apostles saw him beside the Lord. And the Lord stripped away enough of the corruption of the vision of the Apostles to allow them to see what they saw: and still we ought rest assured that they only perceived a portion of the glory that there is to see.
There should be no shame in longing for a metamorphosis of yourself or your circumstances. It is, after all, what we are intended for. Of course we don’t know when or how, and so likely it won’t come in the specific ways you think, but there should be no shame in wanting to have what you were made to have–that is, a bit of clarity in your vision so that you can see more of the light. You may have it eventually, may receive it unexpectedly in this measure or that, since you were made for better than the sorrows of this life: even if you don’t know when this or that “transfiguration” will take place.
What a beautiful, thoughtful comment. I’ve come back to read it a few times. Thank you.
Virgil T. Morant says
Well, that just brightened my evening. Thank you!