Years ago, when we were first married, my wife and I lead a group of teens from Tucson, Arizona backpacking in the Weminuche Wilderness near Durango, Colorado. I have a good friend that served as our guide and he planned a couple of things before we left for the back country both to test our physical conditioning and to help us build trust together as a group. The first morning we awoke to an early morning run. He had us all line up on at an old mining road and the goal was to be the first one to the top of this steep trail. Now mind you he was the only one who lived at altitude but he was also more than twice as old as any kid in the race. We all started out strong but he started out slow. I figured he was just “old man” slow. But not more than a couple of minutes passed when he started picking me and the kids off one by one. He passed the other leaders and the high school football players, everyone. He had what the rest of us lacked – endurance and conditioning. Building endurance and conditioning takes time, it is not glorious and is usually done when no one else is looking. I would have given anything to skip the hard work and get to the top. My friend got the glorious finish but not before subjecting himself to some hard work.
We have said in a previous entry on Scholé that Jesus, in His Transfiguration has shown us the destiny of our own transfiguration. But before attaining the light of the Transfiguration, the hard path of asceticism is almost always necessary. Like climbing that mine road there was work to do to get to the glorious view at the top.
Don’t forget that next to Jesus appear Moses and Elijah. Moses represents the law. Elijah represents the prophets. Jesus is the fulfillment of all law and of all prophecy. He is the final completion of the whole of Old Testament; He is the fullness of all divine revelation. What do Moses and Elijah speak with Jesus about? The scriptures do not say but Church Fathers say they were speaking to him of His upcoming Passion on the Cross. We do know that in Jesus’ life the glorious mysteries cannot be separated from the mysteries of suffering. It is when he was preparing to go to His passion that he is transfigured. In our own life, we shall not enter into the joy of the Transfiguration unless we accept the Cross.
Two words stand out that make all the difference in the world. The disciples fall on their faces in fear. Jesus touches them and reassures them. “And when they had lifted up their eyes they saw no one, save Jesus only.” The disciple must see Jesus only. Jesus in his humility as well as his glory. There are times when we luminously see and seem to hear the Father commending us to love His Son and listen to Him. But these flashes do not last. We must immediately find Jesus again where he is normally to be found, in the midst of our humble and sometimes difficult everyday duties. To see Jesus only also means to fix our gaze on Jesus alone and to not let ourselves get distracted either by things of this world or by men and women we meet, in short to make Jesus supreme in our lives. We all live in the midst of the world and must deal with money and frustrations and temptations but we are called to attain a degree of faith and love which allow Jesus to become transparent through both men and things: all natural beauty, all human beauty will become the fringe of the beauty that is itself Christ’s; we will see its reflection in everything that attracts and merits our attention; in short we will have transfigured the world and we shall find “Jesus only” in all those on whom we open our eyes. That is hard work.