Today is a feast in Christianity that is difficult to explain. The word itself: transfiguration, if broken apart, speaks of a change from something into something else, a change in figure or form. What we know from each of the three synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) is a similar recounting of the same event that took place on Mount Tabor. Jesus had taken his friends Peter, James and John to that mountain for a time of prayer and something inexplicable happened. Jesus appeared to change into a “being of light” – as if from another realm. It seemed that the space-time continuum had been breached because he was seen by his friends to be in conversation with Moses and Elijah the prophet, both Old Testament figures.
Clearly, this event was something “other-worldly” for the three disciples of Jesus, something that they wanted to hold onto. (“Let us set up three tents here, Master, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah…”) but that was not to be. The vision disappeared as quickly as it had come and they were left in the presence of “only Jesus” again.
Why was this gift given to these three and not all twelve of the apostles? What did it mean for their lives? How are we to interpret the story? These questions and more can only be answered as conjecture. Perhaps our experiences of meeting Jesus are not as real in this physical realm. Perhaps we meet him in imaginal space or simply in our deepest moments of prayer. Perhaps we have yet to trust ourselves to some holiness in ourselves that might allow a deeper understanding of our connection to the divine.
Paul’s Letter to the Hebrews (11:1) tells us that ” faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen…” Perhaps we might benefit on this day from sitting quietly and putting ourselves in the gospel story of the Transfiguration (LK 9:28-36) to see what cannot be seen with our physical eyes but which might be grasped through the eyes of faith.