TRANSFIGURATION


Today August 6th, on our liturgical calendar, we celebrate The feast of the Transfiguration. It is also our feast of title here at Christ Church Cathedral. This is what other churches dedicated to the patronage of a saint would call their Patronal Festival. We thank God for the mission and ministry of this church over these many years and I consider myself a product of the mission and ministry here. Now "transfiguration" is not a word one uses much in everyday conversation. In fact, it is one of those words that are not used much outside the church.

'Transfiguration' is somewhat like 'transformation' but 'transfiguration' focuses on appearance. So when Jesus appeared in dazzling white in our gospel story today, we say he was "transfigured" - dramatically changed in appearance. 'Transfiguration' can also signal a change that glorifies or exalts somebody.

On the Feast of the Transfiguration we recall Jesus taking Peter, James and John up Mount Tabor, where he is transfigured in their sight. Transfiguration is not an easy thing to explain. Perhaps the best way of understanding it is to try to imagine the splendour and divinity of God shining out of the human body of Jesus. For this short time, the divinity which is hidden in Jesus, is seen by Peter, James and John. They see Jesus in a new light, literally and metaphorically.

When this happens, Moses and Elijah are seen talking with Jesus. Moses represents the Jewish Law and Elijah represents all the Old Testament prophets. There is something very reassuring about the Transfiguration for us. As we hear the Gospel stories each day at Mass or when we read them privately, we are presented with this remarkable figure of Jesus, his teachings and his miracles. All of them point to something special about him. The Transfiguration confirms that our interpretation of the Jesus of the Gospel stories is who he says he is and that he is indeed extraordinary.

The Transfiguration seems to point to a time in Jesus' ministry when he comes to terms with the fate he is likely to meet: if he continues to confront the forces of oppression and injustice, he is certain to encounter opposition, even death. He struggles with that realization in the wilderness at the outset of his ministry. He comes to peace with what it involves on the mountain top.

The Transfiguration was also to strengthen the faith of the disciples for the turmoil and trials that would come with the death and sufferings of Jesus. They were on their way to Jerusalem where Jesus would be arrested and crucified. We can imagine that in their darkest hour, Peter, James and John remembered this event on the mountain, and that it gave them some hope.

If you think of it, we too have had our transfiguration, mountain-top spiritual experiences. Think of the consolations you have experienced in your personal history: a powerful sense of God's presence, such as the healing power of the sacraments. Remember these times and revisit them, in the way that Peter, James and John revisited this Transfiguration event on the mountain and drew strength and hope from it.

The Transfiguration is also to strengthen our faith, especially in times of difficulty. The Transfiguration confirms for us that there is a spiritual reality that is much greater and more beautiful than the ordinary world of matter that we experience around us.

Rev'd. Fr. Colin Humes