Sometimes an event from the bible takes on new significance to me when I discover what other lessons it is paired with in the lectionary. For example, today is the Feast of the Transfiguration—that moment when Jesus is transfigured before Peter, James, and John. His clothes become a dazzling white, brighter than any fuller could bleach them. Principally, this feast is about that singular moment when Jesus’ divinity shone through, becoming visible to a select group. That moment from the gospel is so profound that it is assigned its own major feast (one of only ten days in the church calendar that take precedence over a Sunday). But I’m only just now learning (or maybe re-learning) about the other significances of the event that show up in the other readings.
In the Daily Office, today’s New Testament lesson (2 Corinthians 4:-16) reveals that there’s another light shining through. As Paul writes, “For what we preach is nor ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” I’ve read that last sentence five or six times this morning, and the more I read it the easier it is for me to see that God is trying to shine a light in my heart—to bring the same light of God’s divinity (as revealed on that mountain top) into the darkness of my soul.
I’ve never really thought of it this way before, but the Transfiguration is as much about our transformation as it is about Jesus’ laser-light show. He didn’t just go up on that mountain top to show Peter, James, and John his true nature—to let the divinity burst through its human covering. (Note the implied heresy in that false statement—Jesus was not merely God in a human costume.) Jesus took PJ&J aside to reveal to them that they too might have the light of God shining in their lives.
The Incarnation happened behind closed doors. Mary was impregnated by the Holy Spirit, and, although I’m no expert on divine insemination, I’m pretty sure that, however it happened, it wasn’t a public event. God became flesh in a private moment. The only signs we get of that are those shown later on in Jesus’ life. But the Transfiguration was intended for others to see. PJ&J were able to see the consequences of the Incarnation—what happens when the light of God comes to dwell in humanity. It’s an invitation for all of us—that God’s glory might somehow come to us and shine within us.
The Transfiguration is a reminder that God is eager to share his divine nature, and that’s a remarkable thing to believe in. God seeks to give himself—his very essence and being—to the other. Before Christ came, no one on earth had ever imagined that would be possible. “God is completely other,” we had always thought. And although that is true—God is ontologically different—God seeks not only to disclose himself to the world but to share himself with creation. We are invited to be transformed so that we might also be transfigured. God shining the light of his glory into our hearts isn’t just a moment of peace for us to experience and leave behind. God is showing us that he wants to live within us—to take up residence in our personas, to transform us, to unite himself to our fragile humanity, and to make us new.