2nd Sunday of Lent (Fr. Simham)
Transfiguration is such an important event in the life of Christ and the church that we get it at least twice a year as our Gospel readings. Every 2nd Sunday of the Lent and on August 6th, the feast of transfiguration.
At the very outset let me give you a short description of what Transfiguration means. The word “transfigured” is a very interesting word. The Greek word is “metamorpho” and it means to transform, literally or figuratively to metamorphose, or to change. The word is a verb that means to change into another form. It also means to change the outside to match the inside. The prefix “meta” means to change and the “morphe” means form. In the case of the transfiguration of Jesus Christ it means to match the outside with the reality of the inside. To change the outward so that it matches the inward reality. Jesus’ divine nature was “veiled” (Hebrews 10:20) in human form and the transfiguration was a glimpse of that glory. Therefore, the transfiguration of Jesus Christ displayed the Shekinah glory of God incarnate in the Son.
Now why is this transfiguration? As all the fathers of the church agree it is first of all to strengthen the faith of the disciples. To empower them.
But there is also another reason?
Almost all the fathers of the church like St. Leo the great, Origen, St. John Damascene, St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aqiunas; they all agree on another purpose of transfiguration. Leo the great says
“With no less forethought he was also providing a firm foundation for the hope of holy Church. The whole body of Christ was to understand the kind of transformation that it would receive as his gift. the members of that body were to look forward to a share in that glory which first blazed out in Christ their head. The Lord had himself spoken of this when he foretold the splendor of his coming: Then the just will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”
That means transfiguration is a pre-fiugation of our own transfiguration; and that is what I want to talk to you on this second Sunday of Lent. That is what Christian life is all about. If we follow him faithfully we will be like him. He will change our mortal bodies to be like him immortal. This is what we try to achieve as Christians, especially during this season of lent.
Having said that I should also mention that this transfiguration of our self is not as simple and dramatic as Christ’s. In fact even Christ’s glory came only after the long journey of the cross.
And so our spiritual progress is a long journey. we will first have to climb up, to mount, from our present condition. Otherwise any transfiguration or change for the better in our lives is impossible.
Now it is interesting that pilgrims who have been blessed to go to Mt Tabor and their photographs show us that Mt Tabor is not a mountain at all. It is rather a long, sloping hill with many obstacles, rocks and boulders, in the path of those who ascend it. And our transfiguration or salvation is like Mt Tabor. Salvation takes a lifetime, it is a long climb up a long slope, which is why the Lord gives most of us so long to live. Salvation is a long struggle which requires determination and perseverance, patient endurance.
And there are many obstacles in our path in our daily struggle. To pick up our prayer books in the morning and again in the evening is a struggle and there are always obstacles in our path to even this: meals to prepare, flights to catch, phones that ring, families and children to care for, mortgages to be paid, money to be earned. There are so many worries. Christian life is indeed made up of little sacrifices, obstacles to overcome.
Apart from all these in our faith we are called to struggle daily, whatever the rocks or boulders in our way, whether they are pride or selfishness, lust or discouragement, envy or judging of others, we have to struggle to ascend our personal Mt Tabor, we have to fight for our personal transfiguration. That is why it is so important to come to confession and communion.
St John of the Cross described this Mystical Ascent of the Soul–and its transfiguration, in very intimate detailed ways, in his famous books, “The Ascent of Mt Carmel” and “Dark Night of the Soul.” What are these arcane treatises about? Simple–it’s about the soul’s journey to God thru purification and illumination. Purification means we must knock the crust off which impedes our souls and then be filled, as were the apostles on the Mt of Transfiguration, with light-Divine Light. We may describe it as both a process of relieving (our souls of all that is bad) and a receiving (All the Lord’s goodness and Divinity)
So during this season of Lent let us try for this. First the process of purification and second the process of illumination. Amen.
Fr. Showreelu Simham