Today is the eve of a sacred feast day. Tomorrow is the feast of the transfiguration. When I was a monk, I loved this day for its “first evensong” which is the term used for the evening prayer service before a feast day. It is called first because a feast begins at sunset of the previous day and extends through the evening of the next – thus there are two evensong in a feast. I am so excited about tonight. I have a plan with candles and some music and some frankincense. My backyard will be fragrant and smokey and candle light. So exciting.
First evensong of the Transfiguration is magical and the feast itself is full of hymns and psalms of revelation – revealing. To reveal is, etymologically speaking, to “un-veil” or to remove a veil which obscures to show a thing in its direct and clear truth. The feast of the Transfiguration is the central feast of the monastics because that light which reflects off or comes from Jesus is the light sought by the monks whose disciplines and sacrifices are designed to manifest it. And occasionally do. Though so does ice cream in my view. But I digress…
I think we all have a mini-monk and nun in each of us. And I further think that each of us is seeking that transfigured light, even if we do not know we are seeking it. Why do we sigh in pleasure at a clear, bright, sunny day? Why do we turn on the lights when a child has a nightmare? Why have spiritual people gravitated to “Sun-day” and the central feast of a week? Why do we gradually lighten the church when Lent morphes into Easter with the screamed words “The light of Christ” and a lifted, candle outsized and sparkling?
It can be tempting to shroud ourselves in cloth and mope. As a person who loves life and loves food and flavors and cooking, it is possible for me to mope about the complete loss of taste and smell which resulted from being hit by a train two weeks ago. They may return or they may not. But the loss is substantial to a cook and a foodie. I would not be denied some moping with a hood puled over my head. But the dawning of the Transfiguration of Jesus is the dawning of a light which obscures the darknesses of our lives. That glory-light brightens the corners, exposes the dust and cobwebs with a smiling wink, destroys evils like loss, regret and scarcity only to replace them with hope, gratitude and patience – if we do not obscure the light by pulling our hood longer over our heads.
It is true that I cannot tell the difference between coffee and tea, water and orange juice, chicken and beef, a pickle or a cucumber. But there is still a lot in my life for which to be grateful. We all have a lot for which to be grateful.
When I see grumpy people, and there are many of them, all I am really seeing is a person for whom gratitude is as yet still veiled. The problem is that God, who waits for us to throw off our heavy drapes and lift our heavy heads, will wait, too loving to force joy and aware that doing so would destroy it the way light destroys developing film.
What takes courage in life? It takes courage to step into the transfiguration light of Jesus and lift up our heads. Yes, we would have to let go of our fear, our anger, our resentments, our determined, self-righteous un-forgiveness. And for some people, letting go of these ways of life is too frightening; their white knuckles cramped around them for so many years in a death-grip. But Jesus’ light is revealing two nail-pierced hands which take ours and, with consent, gently massage our muscles and warm our flesh so that out hands can, some day, loosen, uncurl and let go. And then, with that hand open, well, who knows what God will place there. I sometimes wonder who are the real priests, clergy or loving, prayerful, kind massage therapists? I guess it depends what people really need.