Today is the feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord. I remember learning about ellipses. They are a geometric shape composed of two foci. Today’s feast is one reality with two foci. They are the revelation of the true character of both divinity and humanity. The glory of God and the glory of man are unveiled as perfectly fulfilled in Christ Jesus. The glory of God does not require man. However, the glory of man does not exist apart from the glory of God. In essence, therefore, the paradox of this feast is that the revelation of the glory of man is the revelation of the glory of God in man by grace.
I have chosen two reflections for your possible use. The first, by St. Anastasius of Sinai, deals directly with the transfiguration as a foretaste of the consummate glory of God in man – Christ Jesus. The second, by St. John-Marie Vianney, deals with the thorny question (pardon the pun) of why this life continues to be such a “veil of tears” in view of the resurrection of Christ Jesus. In other words, if Christ Jesus has be raised victorious then why does evil still seem to reign undeterred?!
St. Irenaeus bishop of Lyon said, “The glory of God is man fully alive.” Man fully alive is man filled with the glory of God. Man fully alive is man not just filled but fully manifesting the glory of God in every thought of his mind and heart, every deed of his life in this world, and every cell of his body. That requires our transformation. One aspect of that transformation requires contending with evil by the grace of God. Such contention, as St. Paul says, “…completes what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions” (Colossians 1.24).
Here are the two reflections. As with every reading from the Church Fathers and saints, we must remember to place it in the context of the entire Holy Tradition. In that context, any and all such readings have the opportunity to communicate the grace of God. Enjoy…
“It is Good for Us to be Here” by St. Anastasius of Sinai
Upon Mount Tabor, Jesus revealed to his disciples a heavenly mystery. While living among them he had spoken of the kingdom and of his second coming in glory, but to banish from their hearts any possible doubt concerning the kingdom and to confirm their faith in what lay in the future by its prefiguration in the present, he gave them on Mount Tabor a wonderful vision of his glory, a foreshadowing of the kingdom of heaven. It was as if he said to them: “As time goes by you may be in danger of losing your faith. To save you from this I tell you now that some standing here listening to me will not taste death until they have seen the Son of Man coming in the glory of his Father.” Moreover, in order to assure us that Christ could command such power when he wished, the evangelist continues: Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter, James and John, and led them up a high mountain where they were alone. There, before their eyes, he was transfigured. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light. Then the disciples saw Moses and Elijah appear, and they were talking to Jesus.
These are the divine wonders we celebrate today; this is the saving revelation given us upon the mountain; this is the festival of Christ that has drawn us here. Let us listen, then, to the sacred voice of God so compellingly calling us from on high, from the summit of the mountain, so that with the Lord’s chosen disciples we may penetrate the deep meaning of these holy mysteries, so far beyond our capacity to express. Jesus goes before us to show us the way, both up the mountain and into heaven, and – I speak boldly – it is for us now to follow him with all speed, yearning for the heavenly vision that will give us a share in his radiance, renew our spiritual nature and transform us into his own likeness, making us for ever sharers in his Godhead and raising us to heights as yet undreamed of.
Let us run with confidence and joy to enter into the cloud like Moses and Elijah, or like James and John. Let us be caught up like Peter to behold the divine vision and to be transfigured by that glorious transfiguration. Let us retire from the world, stand aloof from the earth, rise above the body, detach ourselves from creatures and turn to the creator, to whom Peter in ecstasy exclaimed: Lord, it is good for us to be here.
It is indeed good to be here, as you have said, Peter. It is good to be with Jesus and to remain here for ever. What greater happiness or higher honour could we have than to be with God, to be made like him and to live in his light?
Therefore, since each of us possesses God in his heart and is being transformed into his divine image, we also should cry out with joy: It is good for us to be here – here where all things shine with divine radiance, where there is joy and gladness and exultation; where there is nothing in our hearts but peace, serenity and stillness; where God is seen. For here, in our hearts, Christ takes up his abode together with the Father, saying as he enters: Today salvation has come to this house. With Christ, our hearts receive all the wealth of his eternal blessings, and there where they are stored up for us in him, we see reflected as in a mirror both the first fruits and the whole of the world to come. Source: http://www.universalis.com/readings.htm
Sermon on Happiness, By St. John-Marie Vianney
Why, my dear brethren, are our lives full of so many miseries?
If we consider the life of man carefully, it is nothing other than a succession of evils.
The illnesses, the disappointments, the persecutions, and indeed the losses of goods fall unceasingly upon us so that whatever side the worldly man turns to or examines, he finds only crosses and afflictions….
Indeed, my dear brethren, man on earth, unless he turns to the side of God, cannot be other than unhappy.
Do you know why, my friends?…Well, here is the real reason.
It is that God, having put us into this world as into a place of exile and of banishment, wishes to force us, by so many evils, not to attach our hearts to it but to aspire to greater, purer, and more lasting joys than those we can find in this life.
To make us appreciate more keenly the necessity to turn our eyes to eternal blessings, God has filled our hearts with desires so vast and so magnificent that nothing in creation is capable of satisfying them.
Thus it is that in the hope of finding some pleasure, we attach ourselves to created objects and that we have no sooner possessed and sampled that which we have so ardently desired than we turn to something else, hoping to find what we wanted.
We are, then, through our own experience, constrained to admit that it is but useless for us to want to derive our happiness here below from transient things.
If we hope to have any consolation in this world, it will only be by despising the things which are passing and which have no lasting value and in striving towards the noble and happy end for which God has created us.
Do you want to be happy, my friends?
Fix your eyes on Heaven; it is there that your hearts will find that which will satisfy them completely.
All the evils which you experience are the real means of leading you there.
[…] Jesus Christ, by His sufferings and His death, has made all our actions meritorious, so that for the good Christian there is no motion of our hearts or of our bodies which will not be rewarded if we perform them for Him.
[…] All you have to do is to have in view the object of pleasing God in everything you do…. In the morning, when you awake, think at once of God and quickly make the Sign of the Cross, saying to Him:
“My God, I give you my heart, and since You are so good as to give me another day, give me the grace that everything I do will be for Your honour and for the salvation of my soul.” Source: http://enlargingtheheart.wordpress.com/
Glory to God for His Glory living in you and me. Let us embrace this transformation even though specific aspects of it remain mysterious to us.