Saturday, August 5, 2017

Homily for the Feast of the Transfiguration

Dn 7:9-10, 13-14
Ps 97:1-2, 5-6,99
2 Pt 1:16-19
Mt 17:1-9
The Transfiguration is always celebrated on August 6 even when it falls on a Sunday as it does this year. This feast draws us into a mystery that is beyond the reach of historical reconstruction, the grasp of scientific explanation, and the possibility of geographic verification. All of these questions are irrelevant. The Transfiguration represents the fulfillment of scripture, fulfillment of the promise, the beginning of mankind's salvation, a promise made in the first reading of from Deuteronomy. 
"The Son of Man received dominion, glory, and kingship;
all peoples, nations, and languages serve him.
His dominion is everlasting;
his kingship shall not be destroyed."
"His dominion is everlasting;
his kingship shall not be destroyed."
On this Feast we recall Jesus appearing in brilliant glory to three of his disciples while in the company of Moses and Elijah, the Law and the Prophets. Imagine the scene: Dazzling light. Moses and Elijah speaking with Jesus. Place yourself with the apostles, stand with them on the mountain. Your anxiety level increases as the tension becomes almost unbearable. And then you hear God's voice. “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased, listen to him.”
The Father confirms that Jesus is who Peter had earlier confessed him to be: the Christ, the Son of God. The Father gives you a mission: "Listen to him." Like the apostles, you are stunned into silence; overcome with awe. On this day Jesus–the Nazarean, the ethical teacher, the wonder worker, the healer–was revealed in his Divinity. 
We recall another event on this date. That event was also marked by blinding light. It too was overshadowed by a cloud. It too was an event that, if you place yourself as a witness to it, will cause stunned silence and prostration. August 6 is the date on which the Church celebrates that Jesus revealed his Divinity on a mountain. August 6, 1945 is the date the human race revealed its depravity at Hiroshima. The world would never be the same. Hiroshima captured in one event the sum total of human sin since the fall of Adam and Eve. It took the cumulative horrors of all wars of the preceding centuries, the wars from the twentieth century, the bloodiest in history, and condensed them into a singular event. This time God did not seem to give mankind a mission out of the cloud. There was a terrible silence, there was a void. Or was there?
The voice of God was obscured by that explosion. It was not silenced. Today, almost 2000 years since Jesus death and seventy-two years since Hiroshima--and the follow-up explosion in Nagasaki three days later-- the mandate: “listen to him” is as compelling and urgent for us as it was for the shaken apostles. Indeed, it is more compelling because Hiroshima and Nagasaki demonstrated a capability for destruction on a large scale that is unique to the present time, a capability that will only increase. 
"This is my Son; listen to him.”
"Listen to him." 
As we listen to Jesus, as we take his teaching to heart and allow that teaching to transform us, we move that much closer to the eschatological glory of the transfigured Jesus. And we move that much farther from the apocalyptic destruction of the nuclear bomb, the destruction of the Armenian genocide, the agonies in the Baltic States, the Cultural Revolution of China, and the concerted and systematic attack on morality and life in the U.S. today. 
"The mountains melt like wax before the LORD,
before the LORD of all the earth.
The heavens proclaim his justice,
and all peoples see his glory."
"The Lord is king, the Most High over all the earth."

The Feast of the Transfiguration is of such great importance that it trumps the 18th Sunday.  In general the Mass of a feast or memorial is never celebrated on Sunday with certain exceptions.  The Transfiguration is one of those exceptions.  
The photos are of the Charterhouse of the Transfiguration in Arlington, Vermont.  It is the only Charterhouse in the U.S.  This year the Feast will celebrated with particular joy as one of the men is pronouncing his solemn profession.  

The Charterhouse of the Transfiguration sits on 7000 acres of Mt. Equinox in Vermont.  It is the most isolated Charterhouse in the world, an interesting fact in that all Charterhouses are isolated though the one in Slovenia less so than some others.   The monks live as hermits, spending up to sixteen hours a day in their cells praying, working, eating (all meals are taken alone except on Sundays and special feasts).  It is a place of exquisite silence.  A visit to Le Grande Chartreuse, the first Carthusian Charterhouse in the French Alps overlooking Grenoble, Switzerland, was the inspiration behind Robert Cardinal Sarah's fine book titled The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise.  I am currently reading it.  Excellent book. 

The Carthusian seal and motto.  The motto is in Latin on the seal.  All of the prayer in a Carthusian house is in Latin and Gregorian chant.  

A view from the top of Mt. Equinox, over a mile higher than the viewing location for the monastery.  The land is spectacular.  It was donated by a wealthy industrialist.  Oddly enough I know a cloistered nun who skied on Mt. Equinox as a young woman.  The Charterhouse is only about 55 years old.  Mother is considerably older than that. 

The monastery was built of granite and unfinished concrete in the brutalist style of the sixties.  It is the only brutalist building I've seen that "works" i.e. I am not repelled by it as I am by the Boston City Hall or Georgetown's main library.  The less said about the annex to the HUB at Penn State the better.  It too is brutalist. It should be replaced.  This shot was taken with the equivalent of a 600 mm lens.

A better idea of the distance from Monastery Outlook to the monastery.  The monastery is not open for tours or tourists.  Indeed the closest one can get is about 2 miles.  Monks have two days of family visit per year.  

Sunset in August.  I was freezing while it was in the  80s in Boston.  

The reservoir.  The monastery itself is about a mile away over dirt roads. 

Another small body of water.  The monastery is off to the right a piece, perhaps 3/4 mile. There are no markings or signs for how to get there.  And there is an electronic gate back about a mile to the left.  No one is going to drive in by mistake. 

+Fr. Jack, SJ  MD

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