We’ve had a coolish summer here in the San Francisco Bay Area. Even in the eastern valleys where dry August temperatures often hit 105 degrees, fog enshrouds the mornings and the afternoon sun struggles through the air’s chill. The nights are cold. The natural world is unpredictable and perhaps this is why we often chat about the weather. It is always news.
As creatures of the natural world, however, we long for God, for we belong to God. We long for something more, something we cannot see, but know is there, this God in whom, as Saint Paul said, we live and move and have our being. We long for our Creator.
This week offered many times to meet God, for there were two weekday Masses, not just the one at mid-week. Friday was the Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord, a day in which we celebrate the amazing Gospel account telling how Christ took Peter and John and James up a mountain to pray. “And as he prayed,” writes Luke, “the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering. And behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias: who appeared in glory…there came a cloud, and overshadowed them: and they feared as they entered into the cloud. And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son, hear him.” (Luke 9:28+).
I had the great blessing of attending the Transfiguration Mass. The tabernacle was draped in white, the color for feasts of Our Lord and saints not martyred, and the high altar shone bright, beckoning. I considered what happened on that mountain two thousand years ago, how the bodily features of Christ were transfigured in this moment of glory with God the Father. How Elijah and Moses appeared with Him, telling Him of his coming death. It was the union of earth and heaven and his face changed, his clothing was “glistering,” or glittering brightly. He was transfigured.
This, I thought, is what will happen to each of us one day, and for some of us today, here and now, and in days to come in this earthly life. But in order to meet God we must prepare ourselves. We must confess and repent, and be washed clean. We must meet Christ in the Mass. Then God will come to us and bring us to Him, for that moment or, upon our death, for eternity.
As I partook of the Body and Blood of Christ I knew there were two parts to such union. I must prepare and God must come to me. When we meet, as in this Eucharistic moment in time, I am transfigured. In that moment I am far more than an earthly creature. In that moment I fly with the angels.
Moses understood the holy fear of God, the un-namable Yahweh, when he approached the burning bush. Just so, the power and glory of Almighty God requires such preparation in worship. We gather and sing His praises. We decorate our sanctuaries to make them sacred spaces. We raise the altar and we tent the tabernacle, the Holy of Holies. We light candles and we bow and kneel. In these ways we honor God. In these ways we prepare ourselves to meet Him.
But most of all, we clean out our hearts. God takes all of our wrong-turnings since the last cleaning out and forgives them, absolves us of all guilt. Now we are ready for the burning bush. Now we are ready to be transfigured.
Today’s Sunday Scriptures spoke of being visited by God, and being able to see Him when He comes. But, as our good preacher reminded us, if we do not look, we will not see. We will not know transfiguration.