Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on August 6, 2009


Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 9:2-10

Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother John, and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them. Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified. Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; from the cloud came a voice, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them.

As they were coming down from the mountain, he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what rising from the dead meant.

Reflection on the gospel reading: We celebrate today the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord. I think there is an insight to be gained into the transfiguration by an understanding of how the feast came about. In the early eastern church, many Christians celebrated the transfiguration in conjunction with the Epiphany, when we celebrate the visit of the Magi to the newborn king.

Epiphany means literally, “appears,” “gives light.” A great variety of narratives influenced the feast in the fourth and early fifth centuries: the transfiguration, the birth of Jesus, the visit of the magi, the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River, the water turned into wine at the wedding feast in Cana of Galilee, and the multiplication of loaves and fishes. All of these narratives, celebrated at Epiphany, had the element of change and surprise, and the theology of Epiphany was the manifestation of God in the world. Only with the passage of time did the Church shake apart the elements of the Epiphany and allow all these narratives about change and surprise to migrate and settle into separate celebrations.

All those varied manifestations of the Lord’s divinity celebrated together by early Christians joined each other into a unity, the panoply of events created an undivided testimony. The day, as conceived in the East indeed did address the revelation of light to the nations signified in the great star that leads the magi to adore the Lord. But the original wealth of the day included so much more. It included the birth of the Savior before Christmas came to exist as a separate feast. Light fans out upon the waters of the Jordan at the baptism of the Lord as the Father and the Holy Spirit reveal Jesus as the Son of God. Epiphany incorporated the sign narratives of the change of water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana and reference to the multiplication of the loaves. And of course, there also was the shimmering event of the transfiguration. We have lost something wonderful in the migration of the transfiguration to August, so far away from all the other pieces that once combined at a place and a time to make the poetry of the Epiphany, and it is worth somehow finding a way back.

Saint of the day: We celebrate today the Feast of the transfiguration. Jesus appeared in shimmering light before Peter, James, and John as the Lord stood talking with Moses and Elijah. In this vision, Moses symbolizes the Law and Elijah symbolizes the prophets. Our faith instructs us that Jesus fulfills both the Law and the prophets. Moses and Elijah have left this life; Peter, James, and John continue it. The transfiguration reveals Christ as Lord of both the living and the dead. By suggesting the Lord’s own resurrected body, the transfiguration foretells the glory of the Lord in his resurrection and, by extension, our glory in our own resurrections.

Transfiguration2003This feast became widespread in the West in the 11th century and was introduced into the church calendar in 1457 to commemorate the victory over the Turks in Belgrade. Prior to that, the Transfiguration of the Lord was celebrated in the Syrian, Byzantine, and Coptic rites.

During the transfiguration, Jesus, for a short time, appeared in the glorified state that he took permanently after his resurrection on Easter. The translucence of Jesus shone throughout his entire body. Peter, James, and John were stunned by his transfiguration. The transfiguration occurred when Jesus and Peter, James, and John went up to the top of Mount Tabor. When they arrived at the top, Jesus appeared suddenly in beautiful light talking with Moses and Ellijah. The three companions of the Lord were in awe and fell to the ground as Jesus talked about the fulfillment of the purpose of God’s infinite goodness.

The three disciples were not yet capable of understanding all this. They wanted the transfiguration to continue forever. They felt joy and peace. When Jesus returned to his ordinary presence, he instructed Peter, James, and John to rise up and have no fear. He also told them to tell no one about what happened until he rose from the dead.

In our own lives, we may recognize in the transfiguration that not everyday on Earth is going to be filled with happiness. However, as we move through life with God, all in the end will be well.

ti__atl_lSpiritual reading: There is a stage in the spiritual life in which we find God in ourselves – this presence is a created effect of His love. It is a gift of His, to us. It remains in us. All the gifts of God are good. But if we rest in them, rather than in Him, they lose their goodness for us. So with this gift also. When the right time comes for us to go on to other things, God withdraws the sense of His presence, in order to strengthen our faith. After that it is useless to seek Him through the medium of any psychological effect. Useless to look for any sense of Him in our hearts. The time has come when we must go out of ourselves and above ourselves and find Him no longer within us but outside us and above us…in service of our brothers. (Thoughts in Solitude by Thomas Merton)

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