Today is the feast of the Transfiguration in both the East and the West. The biblical Transfiguration occurred when Jesus took Peter, James and John up on top of a mountain and suddenly, Jesus became transfigured: "his clothes became dazzlingly white" and He began to converse with Moses and Elijah, who appeared with Him. [Mark 9:3-4]
What is Transfiguration?
Often, we hear this story and think, "That's nice that Peter, James and John got to see that." Like Peter, we completely miss the point! ("Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three tents--one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." [Mark 9:5]) However, as Rossi illustrates in his essay, there is *much* more to it than that.
The English word for the biblical Greek term for "transfiguration" is metamorphosis--a profound change in form from one stage to the next in the life history of an organism. Rossi says that it "signif(ies) the crossing of (or) passing through a boundary" and that "the cosmos itself is (a) three-fold (created) boundary" of time, space and matter that "is breached, torn open and transfigured by the power of the Triune God. The boundary is between the Divine and the human, the uncreated and the created, eternity and time, the heaven and the earth, death in life, and life in death." To transfigure, then, is to completely change. In the case of humanity and creation, it means to heal--to make it become like God--to cross that boundary to the Divine.
God calls us to "consecrate and transfigure the world". At the Transfiguration, the Light from Christ shown on the apostles themselves and even transfigured Christ's own garments. Thus, we are called, as Christians, to become transfigured, to transfigure society and even to transfigure all (creation) that we come in contact with. We must, like St. Francis of Assisi, treat everything in creation as having God's Presence. We must recognize the sacramental nature of all things and all people.
Barriers to Transfiguration
A big task? Yes. Rossi writes that the Church fathers point out three obstacles to this transfiguration: ignorance, forgetfulness and sloth. Ignorance, not of "facts" for we have those at our fingertips, but of God's Presence in all of creation. Similarly, the sin of forgetfulness, involves forgetting that God is in all He created, including ourselves and all those we have been put with on this earth. Sloth, in this case, is linked to despair. We think we can do nothing to change the world. We are even sure, many times, that we can do nothing to change ourselves so that is what we do--nothing.
The Way to Heal God's World
How can this be done? St. Paul gives us the way in Romans.
"I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, offer your bodies as a living sacrifice--holy and pleasing to God. This is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." (Romans 12:1-2)If we seek to be one with God and "be transformed by the renewing of our minds" , we will think like Him and do His work. We gain the ability to do this "by the mercies of God". What, specifically, does this involve? It involves a total and complete transformation of ourselves and all that surrounds us.
Notes About Scripture Translation
Offering our bodies as a living sacrifice, does not involve the physical only, but the spiritual, emotional and mental as well.
"Reasonable" here does mean merely "logical" or what we in the west think of as the mind, but "like Christ" who is the "Logos" or Word. God's Word is what created the world and all that it contains, ("and God said, 'Let there be light") and we are called to transfigure it through Christ.
"Service" is better translated as "worship." Some translations say "This is your spiritual worship." So, to be transfigured is really the true worship of God because it involves the transformation of our whole selves and our very lives.
To "renew our minds", we must remember that the "mind" (nous) also involves the heart. Eastern Christian prayer begins with placing the mind in the heart with which we are able to see God.
The Transfiguration opened the eyes of the disciples to be able to see Christ as He really is.
We, as Christians, are called to join with Christ to heal and transfigure our world, both our fellow human beings, and all of creation. We are called to heal each other's hunger, sadness, despair, and the spiritual forgetfulness of God's all-consuming presence.
We can only do this by becoming one with Christ.