Second Sunday of Lent


It is not merely about change but Transfiguration. There was a moment when the close followers of Jesus glimpsed this in him although exactly what the historical moment was like of course we can’t know. But it is a compellingly realistic account because it combines the sublime and the very ordinary:

Jesus took with him Peter and John and James and went up the mountain to pray. As he prayed, the aspect of his face was changed and his clothing became brilliant as lightning. Suddenly there were two men there talking to him; they were Moses and Elijah appearing in glory, and they were speaking of his passing which he was to accomplish in Jerusalem. Peter and his companions were heavy with sleep, but they kept awake and saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As these were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is wonderful for us to be here; so let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ – He did not know what he was saying. As he spoke, a cloud came and covered them with shadow; and when they went into the cloud the disciples were afraid. And a voice came from the cloud saying, ‘This is my Son, the Chosen One. Listen to him.’ And after the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. The disciples kept silence and, at that time, told no one what they had seen. (Luke 9:28-36)

Moses (the Law) and Elijah (the prophets) appear with Jesus – testifying to his unique and synthesising relationship to these two forces of all religion. The disciples almost fall asleep – one way we escape the demands of reality. But even though they stayed awake they were not fully present. They tried to objectify it. But transfiguration is about full immersion, not trying to experience the experience. In modern terms it is like at an extraordinary moment of intimacy and glory together when one of you pulls out an iPhone and starts taking pictures. As usual Peter muffs it; but he does his best which is also all we can do when we are saying the mantra.

Then the mystery, the unknowability of the moment, descends on them like a cloud of unknowing. They are plunged into a womb of silence where the experience will, over time, develop in their consciousness. Only then, and not even then, can it be adequately described.

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