I've been there

“This is my son, the beloved; he enjoys my favour”.

Our Rector is a well-travelled man, having travelled all over Europe and most of Spain. In his travels he must have been to every shrine and place of pilgrimage we could  think of and more; and he is a great font of knowledge on these places. This however does have it down side. When it comes to saying Mass  on a saint's day he may well say, “can I say Mass that day as I have been to that shrine”.

You can imagine my delight when Fr Adrian asked me  if I would preach on the Feast of the Transfiguration, and I could say, "yes, I’ve been there!”  For indeed I have been to Mount Tabor, a table-top mountain in Israel quite separate from any other mountains or hills of any great height. From the top you can see for miles around, and indeed it can also be seen from miles away. When contemplating the Transfiguration it struck me that the light of the transfigured Christ would  have been clear for  people to see from afar, but  I suppose the cloud would have restricted their view.

I think sometimes we do not give enough credence to the Transfiguration of the Lord, or appreciate its importance. This is when the disciples first come to know the divinity of Christ; yes they had an inclination that Jesus is the Son of God, because the transfiguration comes straight after St Peter's watershed, when he first recognizes Jesus as the Son of God. Now  along with James and John, he sees, through the transfiguration, the divinity along with the humanity of Christ. For this is where God and Man come together, divinity and humanity collide and are joined in the person of Christ; and we being disciples along with Peter, James and John are also witnesses to this.

This one act of transfiguration brings everything together; it explains the miracle of the birth of Christ, the incarnation, and the sacrifice made at the crucifixion. If his humanity or his divinity is in question then it will detract from both of these events. Today however, we are shown that both are brought equally together in the person of Jesus, in this one act of transfiguration.

The divinity of God along with law and prophecy, as seen in Moses and Elijah, are brought together with the frailty of our humanity in the persons of the disciples, who are brought to their knees by the majesty of God, to be lifted up by the person of Christ, true God and true man.

The splendour of our Lord's transfiguration is held juxtaposed with the words of St Peter, not the words of a fool, but a natural human response. The words of St Peter are always a comfort, they are the words of a real man, and he may open his mouth and put both feet in, but then so do we.

Interestingly this week in the  weekday masses we have had the account of Moses, in the Book of Exodus, ascending Mount Sinai to receive the Law from God. In this account we are told how radiant Moses' face was after his encounter with God, so much so that he had to veil his face because of the fear of the people. In Moses’ case, his face was radiant because he had been in the presence of God, whereas Jesus was not radiant because of the presence of God, but because he is God.

Mount Tabor is a real place of faith, if you were to have little or no faith before you went up, then it is sure to be strengthened by the time you come down. Even if that is through the experience of the mini-bus ride, hair-pin bends with near vertical drop taken at 50mph can produce many Hail Mary’s! I have never heard a decade of the Rosary said so fast.

Mount Tabor has that real feeling of the presence of God, the one you feel when you walk into a church and you can feel the prayers that have come before, the movement of God in that place. Sadly time was short and we barely had the chance to go into the basilica. However we did witness the sunset over the plains below, a quiet time to reflect upon the time the disciples spent with Jesus as they witnessed his transfiguration, a light so bright it must have been seen for miles around.

Why was it not seen by all, the cloud that covered the disciples? The cloud that is our own blindness stops us seeing that God is among us.When we recognise Christ Jesus as true God and true Man we are also witnesses of the transfiguration.

Then we can all say “I’ve been there!”.