It has been troubling to say the least to watch the news these days. Every morning in the news we are greeted first thing with news of human bloodshed, violence and despair. The current events in Gaza and the Ukraine are especially troubling, and lest we think we are immune from such tragedies, we have our own problems here in paradise too. The growing plight of the homeless, and the inability of the rest of us to house them, often brings out the worst in our community.
Amidst all of this, next Wednesday, August 6, is the feast of the Transfiguration, one of seven of the "Other Feasts of Our Lord" as coined by the Book of Common Prayer. We also celebrate this event on the Last Sunday before Lent. On that Sunday we do not call the day the Feast of the Transfiguration explicitly like our Lutheran sisters and brothers, but we do hear the Transfiguration gospel, and we do pray aTransfiguration-themed collect on that Sunday. According to Holy Women, Holy Men, historically the feast has had a greater prominence in the Eastern Churches. This feast was not adopted into the Roman Calendar until the eve of the Reformation, hence it did not make it into the reformed calendar of the English Church. Currently it is in most Anglican calendars.
Many like to think of the mountaintop encounter of the Transfiguration as an escape from the troubles of the world. It is where we go to meet Jesus in all of his brilliance and glory minus the problems we face. Yet this is not the truth behind the Transfiguration. When you opened this email, you were greeted with an icon of the Transfiguration. Jesus is at the center, enthroned on what would seem like a great starburst of light. Moses and Elijah flank him on both sides, representing the law and the prophets. Below Jesus, Peter, James and John appear to be in ridiculous contortions of confusion - heartfelt and mental anguish. Jesus has just told the disciples that his Messiah-ship will not be an escape from the problems of the world. Rather he will face a very real tragedy that they cannot yet understand, and this is precisely what allows the brilliance of God to shine so magnificently. In other words, there is no light without the reality of Calvary.
Peter, James and John look ridiculous in that icon because they are baffled by this mystery of our faith. The light of God shines brightest through human misery - through the cross. It is not what they expected, and it is not what we naturally gravitate towards today. If we are to be faithful, there can be no escapism - only a willing encounter with the plight of humanity. We realize we cannot run from Gaza, or the Ukraine, or the homeless, but rather that our faith requires us to engage. This is the strangely good news of Jesus Christ, for just like Calvary, when the realities seem to be the most dire, we simultaneously discover that the light of Christ is shining. Resurrection hope waits for us to bring the Transfiguration light to where it is needed the most.
Father Paul Lillie+