Feast of the Transfiguration 6th August 2023 Community Church of the Resurrection, Mirfield
The Gospel: S. Matthew 17:1-9
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
I wonder what our reaction would be if we were led by Jesus up to that high mountain along with Peter, James and Joh? Can we imagine how we might feel at that moment to see Jesus transfigured before us? Jesus’ appearance would be so overwhelming—his face shining like the sun—how long would our eyes be transfixed on him? And what about his garments, white as light—would we gaze upon them with such intensity?
When we consider the transfiguration of Christ’s body, the features of our Lord’s countenance remained unchanged, although shining with a glory not visible before. It was during the night for all is morally dark throughout the world when Christ appears in His glory, and so we must not be discouraged by darkness but look for the light. For this transfiguring light was from within. The light of Christ is not from the world, and needs no worldly assistance for its manifestation. His countenance was as the sun, He is Himself the Son of Righteousness and the glory of the new world shines from his own self. His clothing was as the light, shining with His own brightness, the humanity of the redeemed where Christ is glorified.
It was after six days that Jesus took three of his disciples leading them up the high mountain. For the three Apostles, they were spectators at what they were about to witness. Here was Peter, representative of the active life, James, of the martyr host, and John, of contemplative love. In action, in death, and in contemplation we must be sustained by seeing the glory of Jesus.
Jesus calls Moses from the depth below having died, for Jesus is Lord of the dead and of the living, Elias from the height above who never yet had died, reserved to gather Israel together at the last day, as Moses had gathered them together in the Exodus from Egypt. For us we should delight in Christ’s glory, the Communion with the Saints, with Hope of the Resurrection.
On the mount of Transfiguration Christ showed humanity the archetypal beauty of its image. Christ revealed who we are, and who, by grace, we are to become. He showed the deification of human nature. The word “transfiguration” has both an exterior and interior meaning.
It suggests a change that is visible to others as well as an inward change of a fundamental character or condition. Both means are important to our understanding of theosis – coming into union with God. We cannot have one without the other. Our exterior life manifests our interior condition and our interior condition orients and guides our exterior behaviour. As we move further along the journey towards this coming into union with God, the interior change and growth should be manifest and visible to others by how we live, behave and relate. If it does not, one has to wonder whether growth and movement in the direction of theosis has really taken place.
Seven years ago, Michael Sadgrove, in one of his addresses given during our Community retreat, challenged us to examine the Transfiguration of Christ. What we know of power and glory as love, we might like to ask where and when we have seen God manifest Himself in the past and where we expect to see him in the future. How we look for transfiguration in the present moment, in creation, in liturgy, in our encounters with mankind, in the mystery of our own selves and in our life together. Where and when have we seen God manifest Himself I the past, and where do we expect to see him in the future?
That may be a tall order for us to contemplate and perhaps we may not have a quick response or answer. For the moment, we may just as well focus on the present, God working in us and through us here and now. Through faith we see God’s glory before us, we are with Christ in the glory of his transfiguration and his glory gives us strength and hope. Christ is the centre of our contemplation. Christ working in and through us as his witnesses just as surely as Peter, James and John were so long ago. Jesus who was trans-figured before his disciples, who touched them and told them they had nothing to fear, nothing to be afraid of. He didn’t become something new, something he was not before his transfiguration, he manifested what he always was that is the glory of divinity united with humanity which existed from the moment of his conception in the womb of Mary his mother. We need to see the glory of God especially in times of trial and difficulty and to be reminded of God’s presence and purpose. No matter what happens we will be safe with God, we will always have Christ’s transfiguration to encourage us. Christ revealed to those chosen few witnesses, wonderfully transfigured in raiment white while his heavenly Father sent a message to those being delivered from the disquiet of this world by faith beholding the King in his beauty. This is my Son the beloved, with whom I am well pleased——listen to Him. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.