Also Listen on:
suddenly a bright cloud covered them with shadow, and from the cloud there came a voice .. (Mt 17:1-9)
Firstly, I must update you on my learning curve about sheep and goats. My teacher on the issue who, you may remember, corrected me last week has informed me of another significant insight. Each of the animals is in a different genus but belong to the same sub-family, family, order and class. The roots of good and evil are entangled.
In the first reading of the liturgy today we see Abraham commanded by God to ‘leave your country, family and father’s house’ for a land God will show him. Generations of Celtic monks did the same. Abraham who went as told is the ‘father in faith’ of Jews, Christians and Muslims, but no less a model for all faiths of the human response to the ultimate mystery of human existence. Abraham exemplifies total and simple detachment in obedience to an intuition that transforms us even though it cannot be fully understood. He exemplifies one-step metanoia, which also takes a lifetime of meditation and of trying to treat others as we would like them to treat us, (even and especially when they don’t treat us in that way). Contemplation and action, meditation and service. In our slow, stumbling way we learn from those who in one bound leaped into the light.
The photo for this week comes from the long, wide monastic corridors at Monte Oliveto. One day I was leaving my room for the morning conference of the WCCM retreat that we hold there annually, when I met an old monk doing his slow and solitary morning walk up and down the polished floors of the corridor. He greeted me with a gentle smile of recognition. We talked for some time. He didn’t want to talk about his health as many older people understandably do but asked questions about the meditators from around the world whom he had seen in the church. As we parted, I turned and saw him walking straight into the light. He died soon after, transfigured into the luminosity that already shone through him, as I had been gifted to see, during the last days of his life.
In Matthew’s account of the Transfiguration, Jesus took his closest disciples to the top of a mountain shortly after telling them of the dark destiny awaiting him. On the mountain he is revealed as the new Moses and the fulfilment of the prophetic tradition. All is light. ‘His face shone like the sun’. Peter feels he has to say something about what is ineffable and offers to build three tents. Today he would have said to Jesus, ‘just stay there a moment and I’ll take a photo’. People don’t believe an event has happened or that they have been somewhere unless they take a selfie of it. But there is darkness too on the mountain of Transfiguration. A bright cloud envelops them all, covering them with its shadow. The brightest light, the best things in our lives, can cast the darkest shadow when anything – like a camera or a self-conscious thought, comes in-between.
Everything we call or describe as an ‘experience’ has actually already become a memory subject to the weaknesses and deception of our minds. As they walk down the mountain Jesus tells them not to tell anyone about the experience of illumination until after the Resurrection when the transparent Mind of Christ sheds a present light on everything.