Homily: “On the Transfiguration and Falling in Love with Jesus

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County on the Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ, 2018.

We have asked in our Collect that God, wonderfully transfigured in raiment white and glistening, grant that we, being delivered from the disquietude of this world, may by faith behold the King in His beauty. It is a Collect that exemplifies the observation, that Collects concentrate an extraordinary amount of theology into a small devotional package, a package that consolidates the biblical revelation into prayer. This is a prayer that by faith we might see the beauty of God. This is beauty at a greater depth and significance that the physical aspects of Jesus. It is this depth of beauty that Saint Mary Magdalene surely perceived Our Lord when she sat at His feet and when she anointed Him with her oil of faith. Is this not why in our lives we choose to be Christians amid other possibilities—for those moments through our worship, our prayer, our service, Christ makes His beautiful Face apparent to us, a Face that turns darkness to light, and sorrow to joy?

It seems to be a pattern for two persons who fall in love that at some point during the courtship each sees in the other more than the eye can see. The beauty of the person takes on a deeper tone of radiance and of presence. They become, for each other, an everything. And this perception, both subjective but also very real, imprints on each person, and becomes the baseline for how each sees the other as the adventure of love gives way to the ordinary days of marital relationship. And then after the death of one, the surviving spouse maintains that image imprinted so long ago, and it even heightens to become the dominant way that person is remembered. Any photograph will bring that radiant image back immediately. Or even, just hearing the name spoken aloud.

Let this be how we begin to understand the Transfiguration of Jesus. It is described as yet more, yet let this be our baseline. Just as Moses was imprinted by the divine radiance of God shown to him on the mountain as he received the commandments of creation, the commandments of relationship with God, Saints Peter, James and John were imprinted with the glory of heaven, the glory of Jesus Himself, whose true nature is also heavenly. In Him, everything is concentrated, everything is focused. His sacred Heart is the heart of Being, of all of reality. He who had performed miracles of healing and feeding, Himself is the true miracle, indeed the primordial miracle. Peter, James and John were eyewitnesses of His majesty, and heard the thunder of the Father’s voice, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Jesus was the true Isaac, Jesus was the true Lamb, Jesus was the true suffering servant. It is no small detail that in each of the Evangelists’ telling, the Transfiguration only comes after Jesus had described both His coming Passion and the conditions of true discipleship, of taking up of the cross.

The three disciples, then, fell in love with Jesus. The Transfiguration is the moment of transition from the disciples’ acquaintance with the human Jesus to their faith in the same Jesus as the Christ.[1] The depth of this transition did not begin to be realized until Jesus died on the Cross and was resurrected to the Right Hand of His Father. But it began here—began as they witnessed firsthand the glory of this human man who teaching them that true love is not basking in the radiance of being, but giving one’s life for others. Jesus could have, one might suppose, chosen to be assumed into heaven at this moment of glistening glory. He could have passed from that mountain to His Father’s presence in the sight of the three disciples. But that would not have been the Christ we worship, if He had sent His disciples down to face something that He Himself would not face.[2]

That prayer on the mountain was not a prayer for escape from pain, but a prayer that brought to His mind and soul and will the complete acceptance of all that was hidden in the dark sea of the Passion. As the Church forever wrestles with the Cross, and tries to make the Cross the center of our reality, let us always thank God that through the devastation of the Cross, through its cloud of suffering, through the crown of thorns shines a Face, a Face that is divine. As we enter into the cloud of Christ’s pain we enter into the light of His love.[3]

[1] cf. John Macquarrie, Principles of Christian Theology, XII.48.xvi-xvii.
[2] cf. Father Andrew, Meditations for Every Day, “Tuesday after Trinity VIII.”
[3] Ibid. And cf. Father Andrew, Meditations for Every Day, “Wednesday after Trinity VIII.”

Homily: “On the Transfiguration of Jesus”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the Last Sunday after The Epiphany, 2018.

God’s glory has been revealed on the holy mountain. To Saint Peter, Saint James, and Saint John, the beloved Son of the Father was transfigured before them, His garments glistening, intensely white. Indeed He showed Himself forth as Light from Light. They thought it was the culmination of their lives on earth. They were in awe that this was the end time, that this was God’s final kingdom. “Exceedingly afraid” means filled with awe and wonder, filled with holy fear. “Master, it is well that we are here,” Peter said. They were not frightened, not incapacitated, nor struck mute: they were being stretched: stretched in their thinking, their perception, their entire reality, and they would never return to their former consciousness. When you encounter God, you can never return to who you used to be. Read more “Homily: “On the Transfiguration of Jesus””

Homily: “On the Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the  First Sunday after Epiphany: The Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ, 2018.

 

John the baptizer heard the Father Almighty. He heard our Father in heaven proclaim Jesus of Nazareth His beloved Son and John witnessed the Spirit of God Almighty descend upon Him like a dove. The imagery of this moment is rich. For John this was a quiet earthquake; a spiritual explosion; a silent but fiery illumination. All four of our evangelists record this the baptism in the River Jordan of Our loving Lord Jesus: Matthew, Mark, and John describe it directly, and John directly alludes to it, and presumes his readers know about it. This is not a Christian baptism, of course: for why would Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Himself fully God and fully Man, this Christ-Child through Whom all things were made, need Christian baptism, to be incorporated into Himself? Of course not. He chose to participate in this ritual of Jewish baptism to fulfill all righteousness: words of Our Lord recorded not by Mark but by Matthew.

For Our Lord to choose Jewish baptism to fulfill all righteousness is fitting for us to recognize and celebrate in this season of Epiphanytide—the season made of episodes of Our Lord showing forth Himself to the Wise Men, showing forth Himself as the King of all nations, the Lord God of all creation. And when we stretch our mind back from this season, through Christmastide and to Advent, we see like a cloud that stretches in the skies as far as the eyes can see how much Our Lord has been showing forth Himself. To Blessed Mary, His Mother; to Blessed Elizabeth her cousin, and to the babe John the Baptist in her womb; to the Jewish Shepherds, whose flock might bear the lambs to be offered spotless and without blemish in the Temple; to the Wise Men; and now a showing forth again, this time to John the Baptist as a mature man: he who, having studied the scriptures through deep prayer, and having undoubtedly been taught in a holy family by his mother Elizabeth and his father Zachariah; John the Baptist who knew his limitations, that he baptizes with water, but that the Christ was coming who baptizes with the Holy Spirit and with fire—indeed, He baptizes directly into the heart to give them power to become children of God, to be born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but to be born of God: to the ears and heart and mind of this man, John the Baptist, came the words of unspeakable glory, words directly from heaven: “Thou are my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased.”

These divine words heard by John have echoed within the Church, even back before God’s Incarnation to its earliest moments. Isaiah heard God tell him, “Behold My servant, whom I uphold, My chosen, in Whom My soul delights.” All faithful Jewish people studied the prophet Isaiah, his verses as common to them as the Gospel is to us. Who would be this servant of God, this suffering servant with the Spirit of God to bring forth justice to the nations? To Abraham, God said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, your beloved son, and go to the land of Mori?ah, and offer him there as a burnt offering upon one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” In ancient Jewish tradition, this act by Abraham was also seen as a voluntary act on Isaac’s part, willingly offering himself as sacrifice. And it was on the holy mountain that Jesus went with His disciples Peter, James and John, and there He showed forth Himself in glistening white, brighter than the sun, showing forth transfigured, or metamorphosed, before them. And again, as a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” That this echoes about the Church is why we love singing “This, this is Christ the King.”

Brothers and sisters, in showing forth Himself, Jesus has opened up to us God’s dwelling place. At Jesus’s baptism, John saw the heaven opened, and Mark describes the splitting open of the sanctuary veil at the death of Jesus on the cross in the exact same way. The world has been newly created because its limits have been destroyed. Heaven and nature are singing, along with the angels, archangels and all the company of heaven. The heavenly Father spoke, just as He spoke in the creation of reality. For when the earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters, God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. This is the word that God says, and our souls shall be healed. Amen.

Homily: “On Transfiguration”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman for the Parish of Tazewell County on the Last Sunday after Epiphany, Year A, 2017.

When relationships take a turn, there is often a feeling of loss. This applies to the regular, even every day, moments such as when a person leaves in the morning to go to work or leaves on a several-day long trip; the other person not leaving has that bittersweet feeling. On a larger scale, when a person changes jobs or retires from a job, the people remaining often experience a sense of loss or even a disorientation. Still more this is true about when a loved one dies—even the most faithful Christian will experience a profound sense of loss, an emptiness, some sort of vacuum. To provide some sort of offset to loss, we try to compensate with expressions of love. Kisses and hugs abound before the person leaves for work or a long trip; a going-away party often ensues for those changing or leaving their job; and in the case of death, a visitation and proper funeral are the means for the family and friends to express their love for the deceased as well as for each other in this time of grieving and loss.

The Church is taking a turn starting this week, the turn to the season of Lent, beginning with Ash Wednesday. We are moving from the glowing, light-filled seasons of Advent, Christmastide, and Epiphanytide into something starker, even grittier. Here too, though in a different way than the other examples, there is a dislocation. The wee baby Jesus, beheld in supernatural admiration by His Mother Mary, gives way to the fully mature and adult Jesus who is squarely facing his mortality, firmly on pilgrimage to Jerusalem by way of Cross. Read more “Homily: “On Transfiguration””