Transfiguration
by the Reverend Noel E. Bordador

“About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem. Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, "Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters -- one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah." (He did not know what he was saying.) While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. A voice came from the cloud, saying, "This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him." When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves, and told no one at that time what they had seen.”

-Luke 9:28-36

Do you remember the big brownout we had twelve years ago this month? When I was growing up back home in the Philippines, a brownout in our town was a common occurrence. If the brownout occurred at night, we would light candles and lamps to brighten the darkness. It is interesting to watch how the fire attracted moths. There were moths that could not be bothered at all and so never went near it. There were some moths that came near the flame and circled around it almost endlessly. And there were moths that dared to plunge themselves into the fire and they became no longer moths but fire. We are like those moths and the fire is God. There are some souls that could not be bothered with God and so they do not come near God. These souls live as if there is no God. Many souls are attracted to God and so they come near the fire to warm themselves with the living Flame that is God. But a few souls are not just content with keeping warm; they plunge themselves into the divine Fire that they become one with that Fire. However, unlike the moths that which succumbed to the fire and were no more, the souls that plunge into God do not die. They live. What dies in them are those things which makes them unloving, unkind and unjust. When these souls plunge into God, these things are obliterated by the purifying fire of God, but the soul lives on and is transformed. They do not become God but they are transformed so that they become LIKE God, mirroring the pure light of God in their souls.
           
Today is the feast of the Transfiguration, and the word used in the Greek original of the NT text is “metamorphosis.” The Metamorphosis of Christ.  It is not that Christ was transformed and changed for Jesus Christ is “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrew 13:8) but rather, it was the spiritual vision, the spiritual senses of disciples who came nearer to Christ that were transformed. The Orthodox Saint Gregory Palamas (1296-1359) in his sermon on the feast of the Transfiguration once said that as the disciples drew nearer to Christ, the impurities of their hearts, minds and the spiritual eyes of their souls were transformed by the fire and light of the Holy Spirit and only then could they truly see Christ in his glory in a way they never had seen him before.
           
We can be souls that encircle the fire of God but still too scared to come near it for fear of the purifying fire of God. So we could be merely content to warm ourselves with the flame. But we remain tepid souls. The problem is if we do not surrender fully, we can run away from the Light. But if we plunge ourselves headlong into the fire so that the impurities of our souls are done away with, then what is left is a vessel that reflects the pure light of God.
           
How do we plunge ourselves in that transfiguring divine fire and light?  Four ways, at least. (1) Have a habitual remembrance of God always; live your lives in the presence of God as if God is always watching you. That way the tendency to depart from the Light of Christ is diminished. (2) Put on the mind of Christ. Daily read the life of Christ by praying the Gospels and by doing so, you put on the mind of Christ, and hopefully your life come closer to reflecting the life of Christ. (3) Guard the heart and mind from any evil thoughts, desires, and harmful feelings and attitudes. When they do arise, the Church fathers said that we ought to deflect them by invoking the Name of Jesus as a shield of deliverance from evil. The invocation of the Holy Name is a reminder for us that we are always to act according to the goodness and justice of Jesus Christ. (4) Lastly, each human person is an image of God. Your neighbor is the image of God. Draw near to Christ
by serving him in your neighbor. The other day, we were doing a Bible study in prison and the topic of listening to God’s voice came up. One of the prisoners mentioned that for him, the voice of God is often revealed in the voice of the neighbor in need. We are drawn out of our self-centered lives and loves and so our love is purified. We draw near to Christ by drawing near to our neighbor.

 

© 2015 Noel E. Bordador

Noel Bordador is a queer Filipino priest in the Episcopal Diocese of New York.


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