Extreme makeover


I remember some liberal bible scholar pointing out that Jesus must have been mistaken. Jesus said that there would be some of his disciples who would not die before they saw him coming into the glory of his kingdom. Obviously, the professor concluded, all of the disciples are dead and Jesus had not come into glory of his kingdom. According to the professor, Jesus had obvious delusions of grandeur.

Well, shortly after saying making his claim about glory, Jesus took three of his disciples and went into the mountains. There he fulfilled what he had promised, for these three saw Jesus shining in the glory of his kingdom. Oops! Sorry, professor!

So much has been written about this great Feast, but one truth is always clear and simple: when you look at Jesus, you see God. This is what he told Phillip in the Upper Room: “How can you say ‘show us the Father’ because when you have seen me you have seen the Father.” On this Mount, he shines in the glory of the Holy Spirit and the Father says, “this is My Son, hear Him.”

Yet, it isn’t only Divinity that we see on the Mount. We also see a human being transfigured and this teaches us something about ourselves. All of us are to be children of the light, transformed by Grace. In fact, the Mount of Transfiguration is the end and goal of all creation. The desire for transformation lies deep within our hearts and deep with the nature of creation itself.

I don’t know if you noticed, but transfiguration has become very vogue. Extreme makeover shows fill the media and this culture exults in transformation: we makeover houses and cars and faces and bodies and clothing. Everyone wants to be transfigured and transformed. Plastic surgery has become a billion dollar industry, and diet and weight loss ads fill the magazines.

Of course, the problem is that these transformations are only ‘skin-deep.’ Weight lost today returns two-fold tomorrow. These so-called extreme makeovers are hardly extreme at all, because they fail to reach deep into the heart.

Rather than a one-time makeover, Transfiguration calls us to an extreme makeover: one that causes light to emanate from within the very depths of our being. What Jesus is by nature, we can become by Grace. Of course, this means that we have to cooperate with that Grace. We have to embrace disciplines and practices that help to transform us.

And so we come back once again to the same old spiritual disciplines that the Church always places before us: prayer, fasting, and good works. Again we learn that doing these things has nothing to do with winning God’s favor, but has everything to do with us.

Someone said that the main purpose of prayer is the change the one doing the praying. Of course, what bothers us is that the change is not instantaneous. We are a rather impatient bunch. Yet, if we keep at it, each day we will see a little more light in ourselves. It’s a sure formula: the more prayer, the more light. Think of St. Seraphim and how he glowed with the visible light of the Transfiguration before his friend as they walked and talked in the forest. Of course he spent over 1,000 days in constant prayer and I can hardly manage 15 minutes in the morning! St. Seraphim, pray for me.

Transfiguration is considered by many Fathers to be greater than the Feast of Pascha. This may sound odd to us, but consider that Transfiguration shows us the very essence and direction of our salvation. Salvation is theosis, a process of transformation and a journey towards the Mountain of Transfiguration. On that mount we will be bathed with the uncreated Light of the Holy Spirit.

So, as they used to say in the 1970s, “keep your eyes on the prize.” We keep our eyes fixed to the Mount of Transfiguration. When we reach the top, it will truly be an EXTREME MAKEOVER!

One Response to “Extreme makeover”

  1. Pastor Sheepherder Says:

    In prepping this Sunday’s sermon, I was being led, somewhat timidly, to the image of extreme makover. A Google search on those two words brought me to your site. Wonderful reflections here, Father Redneck! This pastor and sheep rancher in Nebraska appreciates this posting.

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