Saturday, August 20, 2016


When Jesus ascended Mount Tabor with His chosen disciples Peter, James and John, He "was transfigured before them: and His face did shine as the sun, and His raiment was bright as the light."  It was in the midst of this epiphany that Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Jesus.  "Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if Thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for Thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah."  But even while the pre-eminent apostle spoke, the glory of God overshadowed the mount in the form of a luminous cloud, and the voice of the Father was heard, proclaiming Jesus as the only-begotten Son, in Whom He was well pleased. 

This was, for the three disciples, the prototype of the so-called "mountaintop experience":  a direct and first-hand encounter with the numinous and ineffable presence of God.  As such, it was a transcendent moment outside the bounds of space and time, an experiential foretaste of eternity.  It was this overwhelming and sublime experience that the ever-impulsive Peter desired to enshrine within the bounds of this temporal world, suggesting that they should build concrete and material tabernacles to contain that which is in its essence uncontainable.

It seems to me that this particular temptation is one that we all face.  Rather than striving to ascend with Christ into the heavenly realm wherein He dwells, that we might become (in the words of St. Peter) partakers of the divine nature, we desire instead to drag Christ down to our own level, to confine within the bounds of time and space that which transcends the limits of all things conceivable to the human mind.  Thus, our Lord becomes "Jesus, meek and mild," our bosom pal and buddy, rather than the Pantocrator--the supreme Creator and Ruler of the universe!

Our earthly temples do indeed reflect the glory of God and His heavenly Kingdom, and our churches are in a very real sense houses of God, while the sacraments are true channels of divine grace.  Nevertheless, all such earthy rites and structures are but the material means through which the glory and presence of God is revealed.  If we focus on these outward conduits of grace rather than on the Grace of God itself, our Faith is in danger of becoming idolatrous.  By the same token, the Bible itself can easily become an idol if we forget that Christ Himself is the Word of God, while the words of Scripture are nothing more than symbols and tokens of that ultimate reality we seek. 

Truly there is no temple on earth that can adequately contain the essence of the divine nature.  Rather, it is we ourselves who are called to become living temples of God, to be transformed and transfigured by the uncreated light of God revealed in Christ Jesus.  And so may we keep our eyes focused on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our Faith, as we tread the path of salvation--disregarding the tumults and temptations of this fallen world.

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