Seeing someone in a new light
Ignatius of Loyola, who we looked at in our Lent group, was a young man who was obsessed with soldiering and chivalrous adventures. He was badly injured after being shot in the leg by a cannonball at the siege of Pamplona and was forced to recuperate back in the family castle in the Basque Country of Spain. There he could not get hold of knightly tales to pass the time and was obliged to read holy accounts of the life of Christ and the saints. Christ had not meant much to him before, he had been a detached part of his life, but now after some intense mystical experiences, he felt drawn to copy him. Christ had been transfigured.
The house at Loyola is now contained within a great baroque shrine to St Ignatius, and in one room there is a statue of the saint sitting on a bench experiencing a vision of the Virgin and Child. The inscription reads, ‘here St Ignatius surrendered to God.’
The conversion of St Ignatius was aided by his enforced convalescence. The Holy Spirit had been given time and space to get through to him. Do we give enough opportunity for the Holy Spirit get through to us, I wonder. Is there a moment of transfiguration awaiting us?
The transfiguration is a mysterious event, is an epiphany, an eye-opener, but it is also transformative. The disciples saw Jesus in a whole new light after the event. Jesus was the same before, during and after the event, but his true identity was revealed all the more clearly. This mystical experience revealed Jesus as the fulfilment of the Law and the prophets as shown by the appearance with him of Moses and Elijah.
Such moments when another is transfigured can happen to us, anywhere and anytime. Such moments of transfiguration can mean that life will be a little different thereafter. Such a moment can come when we see something in another that we have not seen before; perhaps they do or say something unexpected. Afterwards, we cannot help but see them in a different light; a mini-transfiguration. The person hasn’t necessarily changed, but something more of them has been revealed, as the light of Christ shines on them or even through them.
The essence of Ignatian spirituality is to see God in all things The Jesuit, James Martin, in his excellent book with the understated title The Jesuit Guide to (almost) everything, writes about how this can be achieved through the practice of the Ignatius examen, and reviewing the day.
He writes about his time assisting in a community centre in Chicago that helped unemployed people find work, and how very dull and unrewarding he found it, given that few people found work. The most hopeless case was a woman called Wanda. She was unkempt, over weight and had no qualifications.She had been unemployed for months but was desperate to work and was always at the centre, but never had any success. At the end of one day, as he sat in the chapel, he reviewed the day, and the hour he had spent with Wanda, preparing for an interview that might not come. Suddenly he pictured her face, and was filled with great sadness for her, he felt great pity, he was moved to tears for her.
His spiritual director said to him that perhaps he had felt God’s compassion for her. How else was God to communicate his hopes and love for Wanda if not through him? The next time he met Wanda was like meeting someone holy, someone God loved in a special way. Prayer and his review of the day, had reminded him that Wanda was someone he was called by God to love. Wanda had been transfigured, and his ministry with her and with others in the centre was transformed.
We need to expose ourselves, in prayer, to the Holy Spirit. If we are bothered by somebody, and have got ourselves into a state of chuntering, brooding and resentment, or if we find we do not care about somebody, if we bring that situation and that person to the Lord in prayer, we might experience a transfiguration. If we can be moved from dislike, resentment or indifference to compassion, love and care, the Spirit will have been a work in us. You have to want to change how you feel, for the situation to be transformed if the spirit is to find a willing partner; however we can be surprised in prayer, as were Peter, James and John on Mount Tabor.
The Holy Spirit can take us to resolution, and transfigure the other, so that we see them in a whole new light, a positive light, the light of Christ.