Monday, August 6, 2012
Christ's "Majestic Glory": Our Anchor
O God, who on the holy mount revealed to chosen witnesses your well-beloved Son,
wonderfully transfigured, in raiment white and glistening:
Mercifully grant that we, being delivered from the disquietude of this world,
may by faith behold the King in his beauty; who with you,
O Father, and you, O Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
While, of course, it would’ve been nice had Peter, James or John had a videocam at hand to record the actual Transfiguration of Jesus for us, we know that’s pure fantasy. Nor is there any other record other than what’s related by Matthew (17:1-9) and Luke (9:28-36), certainly not eye-witness accounts. Nevertheless, the later author of 2 Peter, borrowing the name of St. Peter and assuming his voice of recollection for an audience already familiar with the Transfiguration story, can say: “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’ We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven, while we were with him on the holy mountain. So we have the prophetic message more fully confirmed. You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” (1:16-19)
The early Church was deeply aware of who Jesus was for them. Their recognition wasn’t based on some clever fabrication, but on the reality of the Father’s confirmation that Jesus is the “Christos”, the Anointed One, the One sent to humankind, bearing both the nature of a human being as well as the nature of God. The author of 2 Peter expresses this in the word “majesty”. God the Father honors and glorifies Jesus by singling him out as “my Son, my Beloved”. What Jesus was, what he taught others, what he did as an example for all to follow, and what, in the end, he gave for all: in that God was “well pleased”. One might get a hint of why this would be so from a moving passage in Julian of Norwich’s Revelations of Love (22). In the 9th Showing Jesus asks Julian: “‘Are you well satisfied that I suffered for you?‘ I said: ‘Yes, good Lord, thanks be to you. Yes, good Lord, blessed may you be!‘ Then Jesus, our kind Lord said: ‘If you are satisfied, I am satisfied. It is a joy, a bliss, an endless delight to me that ever I suffered the Passion for you; and if I could suffer more, I would suffer more.’” For Peter, speaking through the author of the Epistle, God clearly confirmed Jesus as Savior. He urges us to dwell on this message, to absorb it into our souls as light “shining in a dark place”. The process of gradually, throughout our lives, becoming aware of the “Majestic Glory” of Christ is like the dawning of day and the morning star rising in our hearts.
Perhaps that’s what the Collect means by praying that we “may by faith behold the King in his beauty”. But, oh, how difficult a task, as the Collect also intimates, in that we do this within “the disquietude of this world”. Two recent massacres of innocent people in Colorado and Wisconsin; the ongoing violence, on both sides, in the civil war in Syria; the endless wrangling among political factions in many countries: most noticeably in our own during this senseless presidential campaign, with its scurrilous attack ads and its obscene waste of money when so many in our society cry out for just the basic needs.
One of the major messages of the Transfiguration is a reminder that our lives need to be unequivocally centered and anchored in the power and presence of Jesus the Christ. “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” That’s possible if our lives are more and more characterized by the Apostles‘ silence, a contemplative silence which helps us accept the reality of God-with-us, rather than with “the disquietude of this world”.