Sunday, 7 February 2016

Transfiguration pushing us to transformation

Being the last Sunday before Ash Wednesday and our journey into Lent we tend to celebrate the story of what is known as the transfiguration.  Although this year being Year C we read from Luke's gospel which does not use this word in telling the story.  There are many sources available today to tell us that transfiguration is really a translation of the Greek 'metamorphothe' which we derive the word metamorphose or change such as a butterfly caterpillar undergoes a change from one state to another yet remaining the same.  Christ undergoes a change but it appears not a radical change as he is still recognisable as himself.  But is this true? The reading from Exodus (34.29-35) where Moses is changed following his experience with God details a similar experience with a metamorphoses occurring.  Again in this episode Moses is changed but remains the same, sufficiently so that he is recognised for who he is. and yet he is definitely changed.  Has the same metamorphoses occurred in Christ in such a manner that we only glimpse it briefly and afterwards are missing it?

Both of these experiences can be classified as 'mountain top experiences'.  These are often why we are drawn to hill and mountaintops, whether it is an Everest or a Machu Picchu or even a Collombatti hill or a Telegraph hill.  The openness from the top gives us vision into the future or what is around us in terms of geography.  The mountaintop gives us clarity of vision to see our way forward.  Moses clarity of vision was the presence of God and the conventional building blocks concretised by the tablets.  For Christ it was a clarification of the road to Jerusalem, the cross and resurrection. For Celtic spirituality the hill top is an important part of our spiritual journey a place were we achieve clarity for the way forward.  I am not sure about you but descriptions of mountain top journeys give me a thrill and wish to be there to see the view, to experience the openness, to be changed from the experience.  The poor disciples they really miss out on this mountain top experience...they sleep!!  They catch the tail end and miss the point so much so that they are determined to remain where they are and celebrate with structures.  Structures that bind us to a spot and keep us tied to old and perhaps ineffective  ways.  Or structures that prevent us from interacting with and seeing the view from the top.

Often we too are asleep when it comes to the experience as it happens to us and so miss our opportunity.  Both Moses and Christ had a moment that changed them.  Yet the change while physically apparent is not where we need to focus.  It is the change in trajectory to which we need to pay attention.  On being changed they did not stand still they moved on in their journey.  They both walked back down the hill.  They both came into contact with others and in doing so changed the others lives.  Transformation came in the wake of transfiguration.  Moses gives the law to the people they are bound into a conventional relationship and move into a new place.  They are transformed from where they were.  Christ moves directly to Jerusalem and the denouement on the cross.  A moment that transforms history and time.  Action came out of the mountain top and their transfiguration not stasis.

The Mountain top experience gives us courage to face the journey down

We have not left the mountain top but have rather stayed behind and built our monuments to the holy.  In experiencing the transfiguration of the experience of the holy we should be pushed to transformation not stasis.  We should be pushed to show the light of Christ in our lives by going out from our mountain top refuges into the place where the people are.  How can we reach others if we do not step down from our ecclesial mountains?  How can we show the light of Christ that comes into our lives at Baptism to our communities if we stay sheltered in our havens of safety?  Christ's transformation takes him to the cross not to a nice cozy enclave. It takes him to a painful beginning.  We celebrate the mountain top of the transfiguration just before the beginning of Lent.  This is not a coincidence.  We are driven forth into the world down the mountain into the deepest depths of our own humanity as we struggle through Lent.  We are challenged to ring the changes of transfiguration and ecstatic experience into a transformed life that will impact on our communities and bring the light of Christ into their lives.

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