Lifted into orbit

Daily Reading for August 6 • The Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Transfiguration is a central theme of Christianity, the transforming of sufferings and circumstances, of men and women with the vision of Christ before them and the Holy Spirit within them. The language both of vision and of transformation is found in the Pauline, Johannine, and Petrine writings in the New Testament, and the language tells of Christian experience which recurs through the centuries. This is not to say that there are many conscious references to the transfiguration story in the New Testament writings, but only that the themes are recurring Christian themes and the transfiguration is a symbol of them.

The transfiguring of suffering is attested in Christian life. Sometimes a person suffers greatly, and the suffering continues and does not disappear; but through nearness to Christ there is seen a courage, an outgoing love and sympathy, a power of prayer, a Christlikeness of a wonderful kind. It is a privilege of the Christian pastor to be meeting these experiences and to be learning from them more than he or she can ever teach. . . .

Circumstances are transfigured. Something blocks your path, some fact of life or person or obstacle which is utterly thwarting and frustrating. It seems impossible to remove it or ignore it or surmount it. But when it is seen in a larger context, and that context is Jesus crucified and risen, it is in a new orbit of relationships and while it remains, it remains differently. A phrase of St. Paul in 2 Corinthians 4 seems to interpret the experience, when he contrasts our “light affliction” with the “exceeding weight of glory,” the one belonging to time and the other to eternity. Such is the transforming of circumstances, not by their abolition but by the lifting of them into the orbit of a crucified and risen Jesus.

From “The Mount and the Plain” in Be Still and Know by Michael Ramsey, quoted in To Believe is To Pray: Readings from Michael Ramsey, edited by James E. Griffiss (Cowley Publications, 1996).

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