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The hidden art of the transfiguration

While on earth, Jesus did many miracles; but he was only transfigured once.

This was when he took three disciples up to a mountain and..."his face shone as the sun, and his garments became white as the light..."

So extraordinary was this event it has been noted that even the resurrected Jesus did not look like how he looked atop that mountain. Many of his friends didn't recognize Jesus when he rose from the grave, and we can speculate richly as to why this was. But one thing is for sure: it was not because he was glowing like the sun.

Something else was extraordinary about the transfiguration.

While Jesus' miracles were performed publicly, only three disciples were permitted to see his transfiguration. You would think for such an important event Jesus would have invited CNN; well, at least Fox News.

But Jesus didn't even invite most of his 12 disciples.
And even the three he did bring along were charged to keep quiet about what they saw.

There is a hidden-ness to the transfiguration, and Jesus wanted to keep it that way.

It had to be kept hidden, for this reason:

The transfiguration goes to the heart of the mystery of how the God of the entire universe can be contained in the personage of one human being. To be able to pull this off, really, is the miracle of miracles.

And for this miracle to actually work -- and keep working -- it must be hidden.

Otherwise the sheer glory of God would simply blow everything away.

To say again: If not hidden in countless different ways, the sheer glory of God dwelling among men would simply blow everything away.

And so God appearing in our history, in our lives, in our circumstances, needs to be hidden so that we are not blown away.

To do this, God hides in Nature, in Manners, in the Laws that keep societies operating.

To do this, God hides in a Baby in a manger in a roadside inn.

To do this, God hides in Language that makes things understandable; in Health; in Holidays that give us hints of the sacred.

To do this, God hides in parents and families; in friends and neighbors.

To do this, God hides in Art.

So when you see a beautiful sunrise; when you enjoy your neighbors; when you feel at home in the rhythm of the seasons ...

... when you see or hear beautiful art, be reminded of the transfiguration.

But you don't have to tell anybody.

Just remember not to build other altars.


Matthew 17.1-9, After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah." While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!" When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified.But Jesus came and touched them. "Get up," he said. "Don't be afraid." When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, "Don't tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead."

Luke 9.36(b) ...The disciples kept this to themselves, and told no one at that time what they had seen.

Matthew 13.44 The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

Hans Urs von Balthasar, The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics, volume VII: Theology: The New Covenant (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1989), 341-348.


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