This coming Sunday is transfiguration Sunday, a day we celebrate Jesus' transfiguration. The "transfiguration" is an incredibly churchy word. I remember the first time I encountered it, I had it confused with the transmorgifrier.
Transfiguration means “a complete change of form or appearance into a more beautiful or spiritual state.” As we read the gospel passage this coming Sunday, we will see that Jesus glows in a radiance which is incomprehensible. Sometimes this event is hard for us to place inside of our Christian life. My guess is that most of us do not think much of the transfiguration. When we do read it, some may even skip over it because it makes them uncomfortable. This passage comes close to magic and it does not seem like a practical or rational experience.
Some have called the scriptures a multi-faceted diamond which splits white light into its various colors. The transfiguration acts just like that diamond, because it means a lot of different things.
It occurs on Mount Tabor and is supposed to remind us of Mount Sinai. Mount Sinai is where Moses received the law and as a result of being in God’s presence, his face shown brightly. Here Jesus shines forth God’s radiance, and Jesus’ inner circle were there to witness it. The apostles saw Moses and Elijah who stand as Israel’s greatest prophets. They point to Jesus as the greatest prophet, and the greatest leader of God’s people.
When Peter begins to comprehend all that is happening, he suggests that they construct dwellings, some think he was trying to live on the mountain top. Still others believe that he was trying to construct a tabernacle like the Moses had done in the wilderness. The tabernacle was where the Arc of the Covenant was held- a symbol of God’s presence on earth. The dwellings that Peter wanted to construct could have done the same.
Yet the glory was not contained by those dwellings. Instead, as Sergius Bulgakov writes, “the authentic future form of the world is revealed to [Peter, James, and John] as if in a flash of lightning.” Bulgakov understands the transfiguration through his understanding of the end. He knows that in the end all of creation will be remade. The creation which is now groaning “will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.”
In the mount of transfiguration we begin to see the fullness of God’s glory which is reflected on all the world. And so we do not always see that “The world is present before us in its transfigured state.” But on those days when we are amazed by a sunset, made curious by watching birds or squirrels, when the snow sparkles and we cannot help but praise God, then we begin to see creation as God sees it.
The transfiguration reminds us that all of creation will be made new. We can hope in our future resurrection when we will know God in God’s fulness. Knowing God as this will then allow us to know all of creation as well for all will find its perfection in Christ.