Transfiguration

As no darkness can be seen by anyone surrounded by light, so no trivialities can capture the attention of anyone who has his eyes on Christ.
–St. Gregory of Nyssa

…Therefore, we do not dwell on the dismal whimper with which the Georgetown Hoyas ended a once-promising season. Maybe we can dwell on the prospect of the injury-hobbled Hokies making an NIT run.

…Every year St. Joseph gets two days, today (March 19) and May 1. On May 1, our Holy Father Pope Benedict will declare his predecessor to be among the blessed in heaven. That will be the day when we can stop praying for the happy repose of John Paul II and start praying to him…

…Here is a homily for the Second Sunday of Lent:

Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. (Matthew 17:1-2)

On the second Sunday of every Lent, we read about the ascent of the Lord Jesus, Peter, James, and John up Mount Tabor. The second Sunday of Lent brings precious memories to my mind, because three years ago today, I began a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. I got to see Galilee, to climb Mount Tabor, and then make my way to Jerusalem.

When the Lord and his closest apostles went up the mountain, they, too, were beginning a pilgrimage. It was the pilgrimage that faithful Jews made to Jerusalem for the Passover feast.


The pilgrim road from Galilee took them to this solitary peak in the northern part of the Holy Land. The Son of God had made this pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the feast any number of times, but this was to be His final earthly pilgrimage. He was going up to Jerusalem not just for the Passover celebrated by the Temple priests, but for His own Passover. The Son of God was going up to offer Himself as the Paschal Lamb.

We, therefore, are on the same pilgrimage that Jesus, Peter, James, and John were on when they climbed Mount Tabor. We are going up to the holy days of Easter.

Moiunt Tabor, seen from the north
The LORD said to Abram: “Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk
and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you.”
(Genesis 12:1-2)

When the Lord called Abraham, it was the beginning of what we call the “history of salvation.” Abraham’s descendants made up the people of Israel, and one of them was the Christ, the Messiah. The Lord Jesus, Son of God and descendant of Abraham, did the work of saving the human race and founded the Church. “Salvation history” runs from Abram of ancient Iraq, through Jesus of Nazareth, to us, right here, right now.

The $10,000 question is: What does it mean to be involved in the history of salvation? It is one thing to know that we are involved; it is another thing to know what it is.

Ultimately, we are going to have to be satisfied like Abraham that the only way to answer this question is by an act of faith. The Lord promises us the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom of heaven is something we believe in, not something we can now see.

But Christ did not want to leave us completely in the dark. He knew that His closest friends were in for a very rough time when they reached Jerusalem. Everything good and holy and beautiful about their beloved Master was going to be drenched in the gruesome spatterings of the world’s sin. The bright sun of the kingdom of heaven, who they saw with their own eyes every day, and ate with, and knew as a brother—this sun was going to be eclipsed by the dark, evil night.

So the Lord took His best friends up Mount Tabor and gave them a glimpse of the ultimate secret. He showed them that their teacher and their friend was no mere man. He was not even the wisest, most peaceable, most attractive man ever. No: This man is God. In Jesus, God and man touch. In Jesus, God and man are personally united. In Jesus, the infinite goodness of God, and everything that is good about man, live together–without confusion, without separation–eternally blessed.

Christ showed His friends Who He is on Mount Tabor, and that gives us a glimpse into what salvation is. Salvation is still a mystery of faith, but we can say this much without a shadow of a doubt: salvation is nothing less than our being united with God.

It is nothing less than our being united with God. Let me level with you. I love a Dairy Queen Blizzard. Heath Bar. Or Snickers. But nonstop Heath Bar and Snickers Blizzards, one after the other, forever—this would not hold a candle to what salvation is, because salvation is nothing less than union with God.

I don’t want to scandalize anyone, but I would love, just once, to kiss Sophia Loren’s hand. But I could have been married to her, back in her prime, back when she played Doña Jimena in “El Cid” in 1959–I could have had the young Sophia Loren for my wife, and it would have been nothing compared to what salvation is, because salvation is nothing less than being personally united with God Himself.

Am I making my point? We are slogging through a pilgrimage to a great mystery. This pilgrimage to Easter is not an easy one to make. There are lots of loose rocks, and the way is steep, and we find ourselves stumbling, and falling, and our faces in the dirt over and over again.

But we know this: The mystery towards which we are headed—this mystery which we cannot now see—we know that it is no less wonderful and beautiful and bright than what Sts. Peter, James, John saw on the holy mountain. They saw something so glorious that they wanted to pitch their tents and stay there for good.

The Lord wants us to know that this is what lies in store for us.

2 thoughts on “Transfiguration

  1. Like, who’s going to follow that act?

    Oh well, “For FOOLS rush in where angels fear to tread.”[look it up, from Pope — Alexander, 1709 — to Sturridge — Charles, 1991] And, “A little learning is a dangerous thing; Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring.” But, “To err is human, to forgive divine.” [Isn’t Wikipedia wonderful? You can learn so much just for a simple response] So, the only proportionate response is posey [haiku followed by blank verse, with credit to R. P. MacC., for the theme]

    Early Morning Visit To My Greenhouse By A Butterfly

    Free, yet clearly trapped,

    Light pervades God’s creation,

    As I set free all.

    —————————————————————————

    God, Time & Freedom

    Sometimes, in the early morning stillness,
    All life comes together in some small way.
    When it does, the instant becomes eternity,
    And the prosaic becomes Godly beauty.
    Thus it was when I found a butterfly flapping about
    In my greenhouse; and set it free.

    The soft light revealed an even-softer,
    Powder-white creature, flapping about freely
    In the relative vastness of my greenhouse,
    Breathing in the cool, damp air of early morn.
    That God’s creature was trapped did not seem
    To have occurred to her, as it had to me.

    I was flushed with the beauty of the moment,
    The seeming celebration of creation.
    But I knew there were temporal limits to my joy,
    The ephemeral existence must be free.
    God’s plan must be fulfilled; I opened the vent,
    And watched her soar into the new day.

  2. Welcome to the parish and to Rocky Mount Father. The people of our little town and Franklin county are happy to have you here. This parishioner is a big fan of your “compendia” and especially enjoyed your discussion of the Bertrand Russell case. I wonder if you are a fan of G.K. Chesterton too?

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