Wednesday, August 6, 2008


Duccio. The Transfiguration. 1308-11. London.
AND after six days Jesus taketh unto him Peter and James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into a high mountain apart: And he was transfigured before them. And his face did shine as the sun: and his garments became white as snow. And behold there appeared to them Moses and Elias talking with him. And Peter answering, said to Jesus: Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles, one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. And as he was yet speaking, behold a bright cloud overshadowed them. And lo, a voice out of the cloud, saying: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased: hear ye him. And the disciples hearing, fell upon their face, and were very much afraid. — Matthew xvii.1-6.
I always thought, that, this feast deserved more emphasis, than it receives. On Mount Thabor, the inner goup of apostles, Peter and the brothers James and John experience a theophany. They see an appearance of their Master, that they had not seen. They see Him with Moses and Elias, the law and the prophets and all is directed toward Jesus. Both, Moses and Elias, had been in the presence of God the Father on Mount Sinai (Horeb). Moses saw the burning bush there, and received the commandments. Elias was hiding and found God in the description of an enigmatic, even seemingly, contradictory, phrase*, that has been translated many ways: ‘whistling of a gentle air’, ‘still small voice’, ‘sound of thin silence’,‘le murmure d’une brise légère’...

The three synoptic gospels describe this, the two witnesses, John and Peter allude to it. God the Father speaks the words, He spoke at Jesus’ baptism. Jesus becomes transfigured (metemorphothe) and is a brilliant white. The three apostles saw, for the first time, something of His Divinity.

Gregory Palamas, makes a great deal of this light of Thabor. Amongst the eastern church, there has been debate about this internal light of Jesus made manifest, and the mystical, quiet, experience and prayer that considers it, hesychasm. Recently, John Paul II has added five mysteries to the prayer of the rosary, the 4th Luminous Mystery is the Transfiguration.
*but this is the misunderstanding of evocative and poetical language, rules of mathematics do not apply, a small silence, or sound of silence is comparative, not opposite.
et post commotionem ignis non in igne Dominus et post ignem sibilus auræ tenuis — 3 Kings xix.12. And after the earthquake a fire: the Lord is not in the fire, and after the fire a whistling of a gentle air.— DRC
noto bene: in Cleveland, O., there was a Transfiguration parish. The first george bush campaigned there, it was struck by lightning and burned to ruin.

August 6th, was also the bombing of Hiroshima, the beginning of the atomic age.

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