Today is the Feast of the Transfiguration. The time when Jesus went up the mountain and was transfigured so that his garments became impossibly white and bright and he himself shone or his face changed somehow. His glory was revealed, glory being depicted as light. Interpreters suggest that this might have been a post-resurrection account retrojected into the narrative of Jesus' ministry; early church fathers connected with the mystical vision aspect of the event. Whatever the meaning of its placement in Scripture, the Transfiguration shows us a glimpse of Jesus' divinity, which is usually veiled by his humanity.

Although not on this actual date, I was ordained to the priesthood on the occasion of this feast, so it's a special day to me. I have a lovely icon of the Transfiguration which I received as an ordination gift as well as a couple of other items that both depict/symbolize and commemorate the day.

Is transfiguration something that happens to anyone but Jesus Christ? Can it happen to anyone else? Or are we really talking about transformation as the event that happens (might happen) to us, at least in this life? We have some kind of experience or epiphany and we are different afterwards. Transformation happens over time and it can also happen rather suddenly. Think perhaps of the difference between the apostle Paul and James the brother of Jesus. If James had a (conversion) experience like Paul's, we don't know about it. Rather, it appears that he was in the company of Jesus for a long time before he became a leader of the church in Jerusalem; perhaps he had some kind of resurrection experience that suddenly changed him, but no one recorded it. When I was ordained, the Bishop preached about how I was changed in that experience, but also how it had come about over a long time. It may have been a form of transformation, my ordination, but it was not transfiguration.

In Harry Potter, transfiguration is turning one thing into another. A mouse into a teacup, a mean boy into a ferret, a rabbit into a top hat. It's not necessarily a good thing to be transfigured in the world of Harry Potter. But transfiguration in Harry Potter seems much more akin to Ovid's Metamorphoses - where people and gods turn into trees or animals, often in order to pursue or escape lovers - than the Biblical story of Jesus on the mountain.

Perhaps transfiguration is what happens to us at the resurrection. Perhaps, if Jesus became human so that we might become divine, as Athanasius wrote (this is theosis or divinization in Eastern/Orthodox thought), the message of the transfiguration is that just as the human veil was lifted to show the divine in Jesus, so when we are perfected at the last, we too shall finally become transfigured.


Padre Mickey said…
A lovely reflection, Reverenda.
Gracias, Padre. Thanks for stopping by. I'm going to check out your music options for today now.