Sunday is the Feast of the Transfiguration.
This is one of those Gospel stories that makes modern Protestants and others in the "historical Jesus" debate really go bonkers if they view Jesus as little more than a nice guy moral exemplar. If you have issues with the Trinity in any real sense other than as some weird theological abstraction, then this also makes you a bit twitchy. For those who think the Early church made Jesus more "divine" as time went on, then this story really gets you going.
Imagining Jesus in his true form apart from his humanity is a bit troubling if we picture Jesus as just a nice guy who died tragically or as some misguided rabbi floating here, there, and everywhere.
I am including here some pictures I took from the top of the Mount of the Transfiguration. You interestingly have to pile in at the bottom of the mountain in buses run by Muslims who jobs are to ferret tourists up and down the mountain. It's quite the gut wrenching winding road up to the top, as the drivers drive like Formula One race cars up to the top.
Once you get up there, there is a delightful Franciscan church built on the spot Western Christianity believes is where Jesus was transfigured. The Greek Orthodox have there own little spot about 100 feet away which is not open to the general public. The Franciscan spot was one of my favorite places you visit. you can go up to the main altar and then outside on a veranda that overlooks the plains below. Really lovely view.
One really feels something amazing once happened there. It has a unique feel to it, like a holy place that is hard to describe. Some modern theological writers use the terminology of "thin places"- places where reality seems very thin, as if the supernatural world is just right behind the veil in a way you can almost taste or see.
This is one of those times when I think the Church in the East runs rings around the Western tradition in terms of understanding the Transfiguration. The Transfiguration of Jesus is really quite central to Eastern theology of Light and Theosis. It is sometimes refers to as the Taboric light, from Mount Tabor, seen here, commonly known as the Mount of the Transfiguration.
In Eastern theology, the Light of God is a very central image. God calling us to the Divine Light and cleansing us from the darkness of sin and death. I will not go to far into that, but it is a good way of looking at the divine mystery of souls uniting to God's divine light of goodness and grace. I don't think it is contrary to Western theology actually. In some ways, I think it is helpful to preserve the mystery of Christ's Transfiguration and not to over analyze the miracle in a clinical scholastic manner.
Sometimes, we get to big for our britches and want to fit God and Jesus into a box we can understand, to turn God into a math equation that factors out neatly. That simply is not the case with an infinite God. We simply can't do that. That is the true beauty of the Transfiguration.
Or, as CS Lewis put it, "One minute you see him and another you won't. After all, Aslan is not a tame lion."