Yesterday was the Feast of The Transfiguration of Jesus, a day observed by millions of Christians worldwide. The story can be found in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. Here it is in Matthew 17:
After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.
Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”
While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”
When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.
As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”
This incident is one of the miracles in the life of Jesus, and it’s importance can be seen by it getting retold in three of the four Gospels. But growing up in a Pentecostal church, it pretty much got short shrift. It usually got crammed into a Sunday School lesson or Bible study about the appearance of Moses and Elijah with Jesus linked the Old Testament law and prophets with the ultimate fulfillment of those in the grace of God through Jesus. Which is, to be sure, a very important lesson. But it didn’t get the time or excited retellings of other miracles: “Jesus feeds thousands!”, “Jesus makes the blind man see!”, “Jesus walks on water!”.
I always liked it, though. I think it’s the imagery that pulled me in. Jesus suddenly radiating, the bright luminousity of his robes, and suddenly, the long-dead Moses and Elijah show up. Then God, by way of cumulus, speaks, giving His stamp of Alpha approval and Omega omniscience and telling them to listen to Jesus (with an exclamation point). And then, just as fear took hold of the disciples (as usual), Jesus comes over and touches them and says don’t be scurred, and keeps it moving. Just like that, things are back to normal.
The Transfiguration connects to other Biblical stories so well. God’s use of clouds to speak harken back to the Old Testament, and is seen in Revelation. God’s audible claim of Jesus as His Son was seen at Jesus’ Baptism, too. The bright robes and transcendence is there at His Ascension.
Jos on her 26th birthday in Philadelphia.
August 6th is also my sister Joscelyne’s birthday. She would’ve been thirty. We had conversations about how she would celebrate. She wanted to get dolled up, as was her style, and go see a Broadway show and to a nighclub. She wanted live music and dancing, great food and yummy adult drinks. It was so very strange to her that she would be thirty-THIRTY- so much more grown and no longer in the MTV demographic.
As August 6th rolled around this year, I felt a growing sadness. It was there last year, too- our first without her- but me and my family headed to her childhood fav restaurant Denny’s for dinner. This year, with my dad in the hospital from the stroke, that wasn’t happening. I cried at least three times over the past week, suddenly hit by the grief that she will forever be gone.
Her son Justin came for a few days beginning on Monday, and since, there hasn’t been a single tear. I know my mental/emotional state is heavily tied to how the CIDP effects me. On Sunday, I had a 14 hour migraine; on Tuesday, with Justin in tow, I pushed Zoe in the stroller to the park half a mile away. And back. Yesterday I ordered pizza for dinner, and mixed up a pink vodka drink with passionfruit and pineapple. K got a green one, and we toasted to and for Ms. Jos, the ever fabulous.
If you’re wondering what the Transfiguration has to do with my deceased sister, I’m getting to it. Look, if you read this far, you can manage a few more grafs.
Patrick Comerford, a fellow Anglican, wrote on the Transfiguration (H/T: Rod Dreher):
The Transfiguration of Christ in itself is the fulfilment of all of the Theophanies and manifestations of God, a fulfilment made perfect and complete in the person of Christ. We could sat the Transfiguration is the culmination of Christ’s public life, just as his Baptism is its starting point, and his Ascension its end. As Archbishop Michael Ramsey, in his small book, The Glory of God and the Transfiguration of Christ, wrote: “The Transfiguration stands as a gateway to the saving events of the Gospel.”
Saint Paul uses the Greek word for Transfiguration, metamorphosis (μεταμόρφωσις), as found in the Synoptic Gospels when he describes how the Christian is to be transfigured, transformed, into the image of Christ (II Corinthians 3: 18). Transfiguration is a profound change, by God, in Christ, through the Spirit. And so, the Transfiguration reveals to us our ultimate destiny as Christians, the ultimate destiny of all people and all creation to be transformed and glorified by the majestic splendour of God himself.
And on the Wikipedia Transfiguration page, this excerpt:
In Christian teachings, the Transfiguration is a pivotal moment, and the setting on the mountain is presented as the point where human nature meets God: the meeting place for the temporal and the eternal, with Jesus himself as the connecting point, acting as the bridge between heaven and earth.
In the Transfiguration, I see the work of salvation, of purification and elevation, an ascendence towards the Divine. With Jesus “the bridge” between the “temporal and the eternal”, uniting the Communion of Saints on both sides of the veil, I view Joscelyne’s birthday with even more significance. She is gone, but not. She is not was, through the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Jesus, I will one day transcend the bonds of this Earth, and be reunited with Jos.
Last night, I sipped my drink and thought, “L ‘Chaim“.
To life, eternal.
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