Sunday, February 19, 2012

Homily for the Last Sunday after Epiphany: The Transfiguration of Jesus

Then Peter said to Jesus, "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here;

The Transfiguration of Jesus atop a mountain is one of the amazing events in his life, yet outside of the church, it is very unknown. In terms of paintings and music, is very under represented. It seems that it is a confusing event for us, as it was for Peter.

It is good for us to be here.

This is what Peter says when he sees Jesus clothes dazzling white, so white that no fuller could bleach them so.

Not only is Jesus whole appearance in a state of metamorphosis, glowing, radiating as the sun, the source of this light being himself, he is joined by Moses and Elijah, the two most important old testament prophets.

I would suggest that this scene is, as Peter says, “good.”
It is more than good, this is truly marvellous.

Peter was given a taste of the perfect harmony of the divine life. The veil of mystery was for this moment lifted, and Jesus divine nature was revealed.

That’s “good.”

But Peter is saying more than “good.”

The word means more than good as in behaving well, or good that it was fortunate he was there, it means more like beautiful and wondrous.
Peters cry is really a recognition that he knows he is sharing in the beautiful, he was sharing in something divine.

We need to remember that six days before this event, Jesus had just given his first prediction of his coming passion, that he must suffer, die and rise again.

He had also informed the disciples of the true cost of being a disciple, that they were to take up their own cross if they were follow him, that they were to lose their own life. Heavy stuff.

With this is mind, it is no surprise that Peter was carrying on that it was good.

This moment of divine glory was a respite from daily ministry and a relief from thinking about the cost of discipleship.

He likes it so much he suggests that the moment be prolonged:
let us make three dwellings, he says

He wants this to go on forever. He looks back and sees the grind of daily ministry with its persecutions, and looks to the future and sees suffering.
It is understandable that he would want to keep this wonderful event going forever.

So, why was it good that Peter was there?  What did he make of it?

It can be seen as a promise.
It was promise to Peter, that although life was tough, and was certainly going to get tougher, it was going to work out.

The transfigured Christ was almost a sneak preview of the resurrected Christ.
It was a reassurance that though he, Jesus will be crucified and die, he will rise again.

But even more so, it was sign his divinity.

Peter had recognised the Jesus was the Christ. Here Jesus was revealing the full story. His revelation showed that he was beyond the norms of physicality and time. He was showing his true divine eternal nature.

But what about us. Why is it good that we hear about the transfigured Christ?

In fact, there are many Christians that think of the Transfiguration as unimportant.

But, Our Eastern Orthodox brothers and sisters think quite the opposite. For them, this day is third in importance only to Holy Week and Christmas.

But for us, we celebrate the Transfiguration before we go into Lent.

It is a last glimpse of Christ in glory before we celebrate the Christ in suffering of Good Friday.
And this makes some sense.
In Mark, once we are up the hill and Christ is transfigured,
we descend the mount,
and all sign and sights lead to Jerusalem and to the cross.

But the eastern Orthodox celebrate the Transfiguration in its own right, the transfiguration as a significant event in the life of Christ.

And their understanding of it as such is different.
For them too the transfiguration is a promise, but of a different kind. 

It is more a revelation of the potential spirituality of the earthly life in its highest outward form.

They see it as Jesus showing the capacity of humanity, he is showing what those who are united with him, are being lead to.

For the Eastern Orthodox, the transfiguration shows where we are heading.

And this is why it is good that we are here.

We can understand the transfiguration as a final piece of Christs glory before the wilderness of lent, an image of majestic divinity before we are confronted with the idea of a crucified God on Good Friday.

Or, we see in the Transfiguration the potential of humanity’s spiritual nature revealed by Christ to Peter and his companions and to us.

Either way, it is good that we hear about and pray about it together. 
You see, with other events in Christs life, we have to come to some understanding of them.

We need to get our heads around the incarnation. We need to confront and be confronted by the cross.

The transfiguration is different. It doesn’t demand an understanding.

But what it does do is invite us.

It invites us to go deep into prayer and contemplation.
The transfigured Christ invites us to deeper into our spiritual nature.
The transfigured Christ invites us to be united with him.
The transfigured Christ reveals his divinity for us to see,
and he invites us to share in that with him.

The transfigured Christ says to us “Come ”

So it is good that we are here.

It is good that we are here to be together as we contemplate the meaning of the transfiguration.
It is good that we are here to be reminded to prepare ourselves for Lent.
It is good that we are here to experience Christ’s presence in the eucharist.
It is good that we are here to be invited to share in Christ’s divinity with him.

As Peter said, It is good for us to be here.

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