The Transfiguration of the Son of God: Listen to Him

This is the 2nd Part of a Reflection on the Transfiguration of Christ.  Part 1: Tablets of Stone:  Do Not Petrify the Word of God

When God created the world in the beginning, He came to the 7th Day upon which He rested and blessed the Sabbath rest.   St. Maximus the Confessor wrote that God intended to have the humans continue His creative work and to transfigure all of the earth into the Paradise of Delight.  That is the very task for which humans were created to make all of earth into Paradise.  God didn’t complete that work and didn’t do it all for us, but rather empowered us to share in this creative and life-giving work, and He left work to be done on earth by His human creatures (work He could have done Himself).   God entrusted us with the task of having dominion over the earth – our Lordship was to turn the rest of the earth He had created for us into Paradise.  God waited for us to transform the earth into Paradise.

But humanity sinned, and forsook its task, thus dooming the earth to futility (Romans 8:19-23).  The earth was not transfigured by humans into paradise, and rather only with great amounts of labor does the earth bring forth enough food to sustain human life.  Weeds, insects, draught, floods, disease, all work against the fruitfulness of the earth.   Paradise was lost.  The transfiguration of the earth was never accomplished.   Not only did the earth not produce the abundance of fruit and life which was normative to Paradise, but even the human heart failed to produce the spiritual fruits which God had expected from His creatures.

The Feast of the Transfiguration celebrates the events recorded in Matthew 17:1-9

The giving of God’s Word to Moses on tablets of stone did not transfigure the human heart into a Garden of Delight producing an abundance of spiritual fruit.  And neither can the transfiguration of the human heart occur merely by God’s Word being a book –  which is nothing more than God’s words carved not into stone but printed on a page.  Having bibles in our homes – whether on bookshelves or in icon corners – does not transfigure the human heart.  For we need to get the Word off the page and into hearts.

How can we do this?   By hearing the Word of God proclaimed.    The Gospel and Epistle can actually be proclaimed in Church without anyone really hearing it.  The reading might take place but our minds and hearts are far away from the words.   So just the proclamation in itself is not enough – we must be actively listening to and receptive to the Word in our heart and minds.  We must train ourselves to listen to the Gospel.   And I am going to play with words a little and argue that we need to take those words – “listen to the Gospel” – literally!   We must pay attention in the service, and to focus on hearing the Word – allowing it to enter into our ears and then into our hearts and minds.  The Word enters into us and becomes incarnate in us through our ears!

In our audio-visually oriented society we want to read the words, but we have to train ourselves to listen to the Gospel.  In the Gospel of the Transfiguration, God says to us regarding His Son:  “listen to Him” (Matthew 17:5).  God doesn’t tell us to read his lips, nor to read the bible.  His command is LISTEN to my beloved Son!   He wants us to approach His Son, His Word, by listening.

Several Patristic writers, such as St. Ephrem the Syrian, portray the Virgin Mary as being willing to hear the Word of God, and it is through her ear that the Word enters into her heart and then produces the fruit of her womb: Jesus the incarnate Word.  The salvation of the world occurs because the Virgin Mary listens to the Word of God.

If we want our hearts to become the good soil in which the Word/seed  of God grows and produces fruit, we have to be willing to do the work which God intended for all humans to do in transforming this world into Paradise.  We must become the gardeners of our souls.

Today some farms are able to produce a real abundance of crops to feed humanity.  But imagine the entire world being a paradise which produced a continual   cornucopia of produce everywhere and in every season.   That is the world of the Garden of Eden.  Our supermarkets may have a good supply of produce, but that comes with tremendous work, and is still confined to certain places.  But the Paradise of God was overflowing with fruit all easily accessed by humans.   The Fallen world we live in is very limited in its ability to produce because it has not been transfigured into Paradise which God intended it to become under the dominion of humans. 

On Transfiguration we bless fruit – as a reminder of the Paradise God intended this world to become.   We realize we are still capable, even if in a limited way, of doing what God wanted us to do – transfigure the earth into a life-giving  Paradise. Our having dominion over the earth and making it  into a Paradise begins in our own hearts where we are to produce the fruits of repentance  and the fruit of the Spirit

On this Feast we also realize this world is not yet Paradise, and yet within this world, fallen as it is, we are blessed by God with knowing Him and tasting of His Kingdom of Paradise which is both here and in the world to come.

See also my blogs:  The Transfiguration:  Man Fulfilling His Mission  and Feast Days:  Signs of God’s Coming Kingdom and The Transfiguration of Christ and the Creation of Light

Tablets of Stone: Do not Petrify the Word of God

The first of a two part reflection on the Transfiguration of Christ.

 “In those days, the LORD said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain, and wait there; and I will give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction.”  So Moses set out with his assistant Joshua, and Moses went up into the mountain of God.”  (Exodus  24:12-13) 

The first of the Three Old Testament readings for the eve of the Feast of Transfiguration tells of God writing His law on tablets of stone for His chosen people.  God was not hoping to create an idol or a sacred relic, rather His intention was to give the people a sense of the permanency of His Law so that they would always be mindful of it.   God didn’t write the commandments on a stone tablet so the people could venerate it, but so they wouldn’t forget it.  It was to be a sign to them to remember His Word – to permanently engrave it on their hearts.

God was not trying to wed His Word to stone, nor to petrify it.  God wrote His Word on stone, but the Word did not become stone as it did become flesh (John 1:14).   God did not intend His Word to remain “enstoned” but He chose for the salvation of the world that His Word would be enfleshed for all eternity.

What God planned was that His Word written on the tablets of stone was to keep His people mindful of their relationship to God.   The Word was not to remain on the stone tablets  but was to enter into the hearts and minds of His people.  “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one, and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.  And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart”  (Deuteronomy 6:4-6).     God did not want His Word to remain on the tablet of stone; He wanted it written in our hearts.   And He certainly didn’t want our hearts to turn to stone by having His Word written on them!  Thus says the Lord:  “A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances”  (Ezekiel 36:26-27; 11:19-20).   These words were fulfilled in Christ:  ” you show that you are a letter of Christ, prepared by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts”  (2 Corinthians 3:3).

The Word of God became flesh to heal our hardened, broken, sick and sinful hearts – to make them truly human, as God intended for humans to be from the beginning.  He came to transfigure and transform our hearts into fruitful gardens for the Lord.  He came into the world to unite God to humanity again, and to give humans a heart of flesh in which the Word can dwell.

Part 2:  The Transfiguration of the Son of God:  Listen to Him

See also my blogs:  The Transfiguration:  Man Fulfilling His Mission  and Feast Days: Signs of God’s Coming Kingdom and The Transfiguration of Christ and the Creation of Light