Friday, March 2, 2018

Pictures Become Windows - 1

    There are times when we may look at our lives and want more. We experience a restlessness, a searching, longing for something else. “Is this all there is?” This is common enough even in a monastery. It may be that we see only the surface of things, as though we were looking at a picture - rather than through a window to what is really beyond. 
    As we hear or read the account of the Lord’s Transfiguration, Jesus invites us along with Peter, James, and John beyond an everyday familiarity with him. With the disciples, we too have seen Jesus cast out demons, heal Peter’s mother-in-law, and cure the sick of Capernaum. He has cleansed the leper and made a withered hand new and strong. Paralytics now walk, the blind see, and thousands are fed. All amazing enough, but do we see beyond the surface of who Jesus is and what he is really teaching and doing? 
    On the mountaintop, we see Jesus transfigured “his clothes dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them.” There is the overshadowing cloud, and the Father speaking of his beloved Son. Peter wants to build dwelling places. “It is good for us to be here,” he says. He wants to preserve the moment. It is as if he wants to take a picture. Pictures are static. Pictures have to become “windows” through which we can move into the depths of God’s life, God’s light, God’s love.
    There on the mountaintop Peter, James, and John were transformed; they could see Christ as he had always been. Their eyes were opened. Their ears were opened, and they heard the voice that has never ceased speaking from the beginning. The transfiguration is as much about them as it is about Jesus. For we know that to really see Christ is to begin to get a glimpse of ourselves.
    So it is for us on our Lenten journey.  It is all right there in front of our eyes. We do not need to see new things. We need to see the same old things with new eyes. We do not need to hear a different voice. We need to hear the same old voice with different ears. We do not need to escape the circumstances of our life. We need simply to be more fully present to those circumstances. When this happens life is no longer lived on the surface. These are transfigured moments when the picture of our life becomes a window into a new world, and we come face to face with the glory of God. Then by God’s grace, his touching us inwardly, we experience as sheer gift the world transfigured and creation filled with divine light. Circumstances haven’t changed. We have changed, and that seems to change everything.

Detail of an ancient Cistercian grisaille window from the Abbey of Obazine. Meditation by Father Dominic.