The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there,” said L.P. Hartley in his novel “The Go-Between.
We think we know what is going on when we read accounts of ancient doings, but truth be told, what we experience when we hear accounts of things that happened long ago is necessarily filtered through our present experience. We simply aren’t able to inhabit the mental structures, ideas, experiences and symbolic meaning of things that have gone before us. We can explain the contexts, but everything will be an approximation.
That’s true for what we do when we recreate a liturgical setting, and it’s true when we read the Gospel. It’s particularly true this week, as we hear the very familiar account of the transfiguration.
Familiar? Yes. It’s in all three of the Synoptic (Matthew, Mark and Luke) Gospels, and in all three it comes in the same place in the same order of events. Jesus goes to the head of the Jordon at the base of Mt. Hermon, is proclaimed Messiah by Peter, explains that he means to invade Hell itself. And then the party ascends to the summit of Mt. Hermon (according to modern scholarship), and is seen, transfigured, by his three closest disciples. Familiar? Yes. We hear it multiple times (3?) during the normal church year. The only thing close to this is the accounts of John the Baptist and Jesus’ relationship that we hear in Advent and in Lent each year.
Given that John the Baptist came into the world to point to Jesus, it’s not surprising that we hear a lot about him… especially in the times when we are pointing our lives toward the Resurrection or the Incarnation. But why all the hub bub about the Transfiguration? What is going on here that’s so important to the Church that we read about it three times a year.
You can view the video directly at this link.