Wholly Fire and Light: Clean Week, Lent and Living the Transfiguration
And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white
The Christian vocation is "participation in the Divine Nature." (2 Peter 1:4). We are transfigured in Christ as we cooperate with God's grace. This transfiguration will be complete when our entire person is fully redeemed and transformed. The effects of the transfiguration involve the entire created order as well. It will finally be reconstituted in Jesus Christ and handed back to the Father. The followers of Jesus, the Transfigured One, now walk in His Way and are being transformed into His likeness, to shine as lights in a world steeped in darkness.
The Lord Jesus has also shown us the way up the mountain
CHESAPEAKE, VA. (Catholic Online) - In the Eastern Christian Churches, Orthodox and Catholic, the First Week of the "Great Lent" is called "Clean Week". The focus of the week is to enter the Lenten practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving with fervor - to set the pace. Strict fasting is encouraged, along with frequent prayer and almsgiving. The intensity of the week is intended to assist the believer in cultivating the proper disposition needed to achieve the desired end of the forty days of Lent, ongoing conversion.
The call goes out to "clean house", to be rid of all sin and entanglements which hold us back from embracing the freedom the Lord desires for each of us. In fact, in many Orthodox and Eastern Catholic communities the actual houses of believers are cleaned and stripped of excess, a symbol of the interior dynamic of the week. During the forty days of Lent we are all called to enter into the holy struggle against our disordered passions and weaknesses so that we become more fitting vessels for the very life and light of God.
This Sunday, the Second Sunday of Lent, I will have the privilege of reading the words of the Holy Gospel at Mass. It is Cycle B so I proclaim the account of the Transfiguration from the Gospel of St. Mark (Mk. 9:2-10): "Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them."
"Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, "Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified. Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; from the cloud came a voice," This is my beloved Son. Listen to him." Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them."
Every year I am asked the question: Why, on the second Sunday of Lent does the Church offer us an account of the Transfiguration? The inclusion of this account is an ancient liturgical practice. We also hear the account proclaimed on the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord. Whether during Lent or on its own Feast, the Gospel account is meant to focus us on the "end" of the Christian life and our own vocation."End" in the philosophical and theological sense means purpose or goal.
We will all be transfigured, as the Lord Himself was transfigured, when our redemption is complete in the Resurrection of the Body. Then, we will live, in the new heaven and new earth, in the fullness of the Communion of Love. This reality is meant to affect the way we live our lives - beginning right now. It also helps us understand one of the purposes of our ascetical practices during these forty days.
Eastern Christians have retained some of the practices and customs which reveal these insights. . The disordered passions and the division within us - which we are called to struggle against during Lent - are the result of sin. Our freedom has been fractured and the only way it can be healed is through the Splint of the Cross.
An ancient homily reminds us "Just as the body of the Lord was glorified on the mountain when it was transfigured in the glory of God and in infinite light, so the bodies of the saints will be glorified and shine like lightning. "The glory which you have given me I have given to them" (John 17:22). As countless candles are lighted from a single flame, so the bodies of all Christ's members will be what Christ is. Our human nature is transformed into the fullness of God; it becomes wholly fire and light" (Pseudo-Macarius, 15th homily)
From the earliest centuries, the Church emphasized the centrality of the Transfiguration of the Lord in the Christian life and the plan of God for the whole human race. Our experience of our life in the Lord now is only the beginning of what is to come in the kingdom. However, our life is already a participation in that new reality, right now. The Church, in the words of the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council, is a "seed of the kingdom" to come. Our life within the Church is actually a participation in the eternal realities of the life to come in a new heaven and a new earth.
The Transfiguration account read on the Second Sunday of Lent invites us to reflect on what this all can mean for us - beginning right now. This event on the Mountain was meant to strengthen the faith of these three disciples. They were about to witness the events that would lead their Lord and Master along what would appear to be an ignominious path, up Golgotha´s lonely hill, to be crucified, a fate reserved for common criminals. Their own faith would be shaken, tested and tried.
He loved all who were His own in this world (John ...
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