The Transfiguration (cf Mt 17:1-13)
“Here is the mystery of Christianity. He has divided these two means of teaching between the present and the future life: sight in our heavenly home, faith and submission during the journey. One day the truth will be revealed. While we wait, to prepare ourselves for it, we must revere authority. Faith will gain the merit; sight is reserved for the reward.” (Note 1)
I didn’t quote as much today from the readings, I found them not as inspiring as I have found others. There were some nuggets of wisdom, but not a lot that actually resonated with me.
The quote I did like —above — contrasts faith and sight as two parts of the mystery or Christianity. As humans, we can’t see God and his glory, but we will see it, when our faith is fulfilled in our death and passing into the next world. (As a sidebar here, I need to do more research on eschatology and the resurrection and life everlasting.)
This ‘sight’ portion was covered in the gospel reading and by Fr. Peter today in the homily. Specifically when Fr Peter spoke of when Peter, James and John saw Jesus with a radiant face in the presence of Moses and Elijah — the Transfiguration — they didn’t want to leave. They were in the presence of God, and it filled them with happiness and joy and made them not want to leave.
This immediately made me think of the beatific vision. Not THE beatific vision we receive when we die and go to glory, but a beatific vision of God’s glory. It brought to mind the vision of St. Thomas of Aquinas. He didn’t call it a beatific vision, and it wasn’t really, but it was sufficient enough to stop him from ever writing again. When questioned on it, he said, “everything that I have written seems like straw to me compared to those things that I have seen and have been revealed to me.” (Note 2) In my mind, St. Thomas Aquinas had a beatific vision, saw the glory of God and nothing could compare. He stopped writing because he couldn’t hope to accomplish more after what he had seen (again, these are just my thoughts). If you want more, see this article.
That leads me to suffering and hardship. Fr Peter started his homily by asking if we were told if we chose to do something we would suffer lots of hardship, would we still do it? That’s interesting to me since he said we wouldn’t willingly and knowingly do it, but we do and people suffer all the time for God. So, I pondered it with the idea of a beatific vision. If we got a glimpse of God’s glory, like James, Peter, John and St. Thomas Aquinas, we would have no problem suffering, because the glory and joy we felt, that was waiting on us, would be unparalleled and unconquerable by anything on this earth. And maybe that’s what we all need to remember, the glory that awaits is incomparable to anything in our human existence.
(As a final caveat, when I say “beatific vision” in this musing, I am NOT referring to THE Beatific Vision after we die, I’m referring to lesser visions, much like St. Thomas Aquinas’ or that of St. Stephen, the first martyr. And who wouldn’t want that?)
1. Jacques-Benigne Bossuet, Meditations for Lent, trans. Christopher O. Blum (Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press, 2013), 47.
2. Fred Sanders, “Thomas Aquinas’ Big Pile of Straw,” The Scriptorum Daily (December 6, 2010), at http://scriptoriumdaily.com/thomas-aquinas-big-pile-of-straw/.