It has been a week of transfiguration.
There are times in my life when I feel transfigured and transformed. These are moments often following an emptiness, a hollowness that needs filling. I wait and see what God has in store for me. For these lesser moments, if given to Christ in prayer, usually are redeemed into something delightful.
I suppose it was the mask mandate that returned with all of its ferocity here in the Peoples Republic of California. Of course the people have little to do with such governance, and powerlessness adds to the darkness that threatens to engulf us all, when the heavy hand of the State, that jackboot in the face, weighs so upon us.
I have difficulty wearing a mask, and I’m not sure why. I panic, thinking I cannot breathe. But I also miss seeing others’ faces, dear ones, beloved friends. I hadn’t realized how important the smile is and the lips and the tongue to the formation of words and sentences. Facial expressions are now prized beyond measure. How can I connect with others without seeing their faces? We are given these features for a reason and masks divide us from one another.
So part of my dark mood was a sense of great loss, once again and, once again, unmerited by facts and figures. Fear threatens next, fear of the tyrants who mandate without cause, who despise we the people, but I have Christ who banishes all fear. I waited and I wondered. I prayed my way through the week. How would I be transformed? How would this night become day?
And then, on Friday, Christians celebrated the Feast of the Transfiguration of Christ, when his face became filled with light on Mount Tabor. His was a holy face, white and glistering. He was transformed before his select disciples, who had grown sleepy, as he rose into the cloud with Moses and Elijah. It is a glorious moment, one that portends a rising of all humanity, or at least those that believe. I worshiped with a few others online. It was enough. Simple devotion. Simple obedience. Simple change of heart. The simple banishing of the dark and the simple welcoming of the light.
When the doorbell rang on Saturday morning and my grandchildren (ages 18 and 22), and their father, stood on the porch, they waved their masks in their hands. “Masks?” they asked. “No!” I replied. “I want to see your faces!”
They were transfigured with relief and their smiles filled my heart.
We chatted over lunch about church, and in my reflections of their visit, I realized a new truth, a divine truth, that the many denominations of Christianity, the various ways of worship, ways of interpretation of Holy Scripture, ways of dressing, of singing, of even praying – all these forms and styles – are a part of God’s plan for humanity, giving us free choice even in ways of worship. Andrew Klavan touched on this in his Friday Daily Wire podcast (highly recommended).
As a secular Jew converted to Christianity (recounted in his memoir, The Great Good Thing) Mr. Klavan could not understand the dividing animosity he saw between these various streams of Christianity, at least among those that accepted the creeds. These are merely ways, he explained, of God reaching all of us in our individual uniqueness, our great diversity. I had sensed from time to time, when jealousy and pride puffed up Christian leaders to degrade other ways of believing, that there must be a reason we have so many split factions in the Church, knowing that one day there will be one Church, and divisions would cease. But the reason might be that that one day, when Christ returns, there will be no Church, and divisions will cease, for Christ himself is the Church. We will become one people, believers in Jesus the Christ, joining together in his body. We will experience another great good thing, union in Christ.
This simple thought transfigured my heart and transformed my mind. I reflected on my grandchildren. One attended an evangelical church and the other a Catholic church. I was in the middle, the Anglican, a denomination full of ritual and song and praise with organ hymns sung through the ages. Perfect for me, a lover of tradition and beauty.
Perhaps it is a truth sometimes acknowledged that when we grow we are transfigured, we are changed. We may have growing pains in the process. Or not. We may feel that we have climbed a mountain and can see our world from its peak in a new light. We may simply feel profoundly rested, at rest, for we have come closer to the heart of our Maker, closer to the vision he had and has of us when he formed us in the womb.
Today’s Epistle recounted the many spiritual gifts given to each one of us, that in our uniqueness each one of us has a talent that we share with the others, and this giving, this love, transfigures us, makes us whole, holy.
Diversity is central, organic, to Christianity, part of its very nature. We celebrate each difference and glorify God in each transfiguring. As someone once said, all creation is made up of infinite diversity, each gene different, each cell different. Worlds residing in each of us, and worlds within the worlds. Each of us is a universe.
For we are a people transfigured by Christ.