"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd." ~Flannery O'Connor

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Transfiguration, faith, and hope

Today's Gospel recounts the Transfiguration of Christ before Peter, James, and John. While greater souls and minds than I have sermonized on it, and I've been exposed to some of that, I've always had thoughts about the topic that I've never seen shared or addressed.

The episode of the Transfiguration tells us, among other things, that the glory of God is ordinarily hidden in the ordinary. The light that transfigured Jesus was always there; its appearance on Mount Tabor merely manifested who he really was underneath his daily appearance as a normal man. Why, then, is the Divine Light usually not manifest similarly? Most of us do not see it directly in this life. Is that solely because we are called to have faith, exercising our wills in the acceptance of that divine gift? Or is it also because, burdened and blinded by sin, we cannot see what is always there? If both, why doesn't God cure the latter and thus ease the former by manifesting the Light regularly?

One might say that the three apostles in Luke's account had the manifestation but didn't get it and hence were not transformed by it. They only "got it" after the Resurrection and Pentecost. Well, we know about all that now and have had saints in every generation to make it concrete for us. Why, then, does it seem so unreal for most of us? I sometimes catch myself telling myself: "If only I could see angels or miracles of healing or the Virgin Mary or—why not?—the Lord himself, I would be released from my struggle with depression and energized by faith, hope, and love. Others are given such gifts from time to time. Why aren't I?"

I have outgrown the cry of "Unfair!" Life is not about fairness, but about mercy and love. Then I went through a stage of accepting the pat answer: such things are unusual because they are supernatural: they are "above" nature and thus cannot be expected to happen often within the natural order without undermining that order. And that is true. But it only pushes the question back. I now ask: Why did God, in his infinite freedom, create a natural order whose supernatural destiny is more hidden by than manifest in it? Is it because that's what it means for there to be a natural order, distinct from the supernatural yet meant to be elevated by it? If so, that isn't at all obvious. If not, then what is the reason?

I don't know the answer, and I would be at least suspicious of anybody who pretends to. But it's a rich theme for meditation and a great invitation to trust. Perhaps that is the answer, or at least as much of it as is given us to know in via.
blog comments powered by Disqus