Valerie Schultz is a Catholic freelance writer who contributes to one of the prayer books to which I subscribe. In a recent reflection she tells the story of herself as a college student on a study abroad program in Paris. One day she wandered into Notre Dame Cathedral. At the time she identified herself as worldly and agnostic. She walked into an organ concert that day. She describes the moment as being transfixed by the majestic beauty of the cathedral church and the sound of the organ. Her senses just overtaken by the presence of God. She didn’t quite understand but she knew there was something about this that was different, inspiring, and worth her attention…
Could we not say, with some sense of certainty, that this perhaps describes the attitudes of the Apostles in the gospel today? Peter, James and John are awestruck by what they are seeing – no doubt having no idea what is unfolding right before their eyes and yet Peter realizes that there is something good about it … that it is so worth their attention this is why he wants “build three tents…” so as to hold on to it and not let it go.
The vision is significant for two reasons… First: His face and clothes became dazzling white … It was glimpse of His glory. He became beautiful to behold … majestic in appearance … they needed to see that because in short while His appearance will not be so beautiful – tortured, bruised and bloody He will look ghastly. Second: Moses and Elijah appear with Him … the 2 pillars of the Old Testament. Moses represents the Law and Elijah represents the Prophets. Their appearance here is an indication that Jesus is the fulfillment of both the Law and the Prophets… that He is the one of whom they spoke – the long-awaited Messiah. Jesus wants them to see this… They need to see this … He is giving them a glimpse into the nature of His identity because eventually they must go back down the mountain … back to the others, back to the reality of their lives. This moment is significant.
Friends, this is precisely what our worship is for us… this is what the Mass is for us in our lives. It is our mountain top vision of God, our encounter with the glory of the Risen Lord… He wants us to see Him here, we need to see Him here because we have lives that we to live … we have ordinary obligations, commitments, family, work, etc … we have things that often distract us from seeing our God for who He is during the mundane routine of our everyday lives. We may not always understand the reality of what takes place everything about the Mass but isn’t its beauty worth our attention? Think about what we hear – the music, the bells, the words of consecration … think about what we smell – burning candles, at times the incense … what we see – the candles lit on the altar, the priest in his vestments, the chalice, the bread … the icons and statues … all the beauty, the pageantry, tells us of the reality … not WHAT but WHO is present among us … watching over us, protecting us, taking from us our stony hearts and filling us with His life, His grace – Himself … is it not worth our attention? All of it is meant to evoke a response from within our hearts – a response of faith and trust, a response not unlike St. Peter that says: It is good for us to be here. And to carry that response, to hold on to that as my day, my week goes on … The majestic vision of the transfiguration and the beauty of the Mass show us who Jesus is, that He is present here really and truly… Pay attention to that beauty because the beauty speaks of the presence of God among us.