Transfiguration Sunday – Mountains and Light

Exodus 24:8–18

2 Peter 1:16–21

Matthew 17:1–9


The most obvious image that strikes us from today’s reading is that of light.  While there have always been those without or with impeded sight, humanity’s normative way of navigating a dangerous world is via their eyes.  Consequently, light in every culture has come represent safety, possibility, the revealing of that which is hidden or obscured by the dark.  The ignorant person—to whom the meaning of the world remains obscured or hidden—is unenlightened or “in the dark” no matter how bright the physical light around them.

The disciples have been in the dark about Jesus’ true identity thus far in the Gospel.  (Indeed, despite the radiance of Jesus and the appearance of two incredibly significant Old Testament figures with Him, they will not be fully enlightened in this regard until the closing lines of this Gospel.)  In the early Church, the newly-baptized were referred to as “the newly illumined,” for they had finally perceived Jesus as not just a bringer of the light of knowledge in the same sense as so many other teachers in the ancient world, they perceive Him as the light.  They know Him as the one from which all knowledge flows and by which all supposed knowledge is judged.  For a moment in today’s Gospel, Jesus is revealed to us as He truly is and as the words of Nicene Creed truly portray Him: God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God.

The second dominant image in today’s readings is that of the mountain.  Mountains have always been places of significance for God’s saving activity.  At Sinai not only is the blood of the covenant sprinkled upon the people, but God hands down the Law that will be the very definition of the people’s identity.  Previously Abraham had been called to sacrifice his only son Isaac on a mountain that God Himself might provide all that was needed.  On mountains God provides, and today He provides confirmation of the value of His Son even as Jesus is revealed as He truly is.

“Ain’t no mountain high enough to keep me from getting to you,” sang Diana Ross a generation ago.  Mountains in Scripture, far from being an obstruction to encounter with God, are typically a place to meet Him… To boot, there is no place better to watch a sunrise, to see the light dispel the darkness.  This morning, the son rises, and the darkness is dispelled.


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