Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Transfiguration of Our Lord - 2014 with Robert Barron

Why the Transfiguration? To show that we must go through a transformation to be transfigured ourselves and so see/recognize Him here and now. Why this? Like is known by like. Luke 9, 18 reports Christ praying alone to the Father, and “his disciples also were with Him.” He asks them “who do men say that I am?” (Lk. 19, 19).  They answer, “John the Baptist,” “Elias,” “one of the ancient prophets has risen again.” He asks: “But who do you say that I am?” (Lk. 19, 20). Simon answers: “The Christ of God” (Lk. 21).
                Simon has to go through the transformation of praying as Jesus prayed such that the Lord would change his name from Simon to Peter – Rock – which is Christ’s name: “Cornerstone” (Acts 4, 11).  But something deeper is going on here. The transfiguration of Christ is the revelation – the removal of the veil: re-vel-ation – that Christ is the meaning of all things. That is to say, all things. A divine Person is in the flesh, but this flesh is connection with the entire physical universe. It comes from the Virgin’s DNA, is fed by the material world through her, and lives an ordinary hidden life of obedience and work. But that Life is the uncreated Life of a divine Person Who is nothing but Gift to the Father. We are redeemed by it and sacramentally inserted into it (initiated, restored when broken and fed).
                Therefore, Christ was never simply “there” in time and space. Being “there” 2000 years ago, He became the meaning of time and space. “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature. For in him were created all things in the heavens and on the earth, things visible and things invisible… All things have been created through and unto him, and he is before all creatures, and in him all things hold together.”
Robert Barron writes: “He is the prototype of all finite existence, even of those great powers that transcend the world and govern human affairs. If we are tempted to understand his influence as only a thing of the past, we are corrected: ‘in him all things hold together’ (v. 17). Jesus is not only the one in whom things were created but also the one in whom they presently exist and through whom they inhere in one another. And if we are inclined to view the future as a dimension of creation untouched by Christ, we are set straight: ‘through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross’ (v. 20). Individuals, societies, cultures, animals, plants, planets and the stars – all will be drawn into an eschatological harmony through him. Mind you, Jesus is not merely the symbol of an intelligibility, coherence and reconciliation that can exist apart from him; rather, he is the active and indispensable means by which these realities come to be. This Jesus, in short, is the all-embracing, all-inclusive Lord of whatever is to be found in the dimensions of time and space.”
                Barron then moves to John: “A text that parallels the first chapter of Colossians in the intensity and range of its claims is, of course, the prologue to the Gospel of John. If in Colossians that particular figure Jesus of Nazareth is identified with the creative power of God, in the Johannine text the process is reversed: now the transcendent Logos of God is appreciated as the one who became concretely available in this Jesus: ‘The Word became flesh.’ But the assertion of Christ’s absolute ontological priority remains the same: this Jesus is the Word that was with God from the beginning and through whom all things that exist came to be and continue in being.”
Barron now moves to the point I would make for the Transfiguration. He writes: “Now what follows from these breathtaking descriptions is a centrally important epistemic claim: that Jesus cannot be measured by a criterion outside of himself or viewed from a perspective higher than himself. He cannot be understood as one object among many or surveyed blandly by a disinterested observer. If such perspectives were possible, then he would not be the all-grounding “Word or the criterion than which no more final can be thought. If we sought to know him in this way, we would not only come to incorrect conclusions but also involve ourselves in a sort of operational contradiction. To be consistent with these accounts, we must say that Jesus determines not only what there is to be known (since he is the organizing principle of finite being) but also how we are to know what is to be known (since the mind itself is a creature, made and determined through him) .
“A Christ-illumined mind in search of Christ-determined forms seems to be the epistemology implicit in Colossians and the Johannine prologue. Further, as Bruce Marshall has argued, this primacy implies that the narratives concerning Jesus must, for Christians, be an epistemic trump, that is to say, an articulation of reality that must hold sway over and against all rival articulations, be they scientific, psychological, sociological, philosophical, or religious. To hold to Colossians and the prologue to John is to have a clear negative criterion concerning all claims to ultimate truth: whatever runs contrary to the basic claims entailed in the narratives concerning Jesus must certainly be false.”[1]
Conclusion: to become a contemplative of Christ by living ordinary secular life and work as self-gift (prayer). One becomes “another Christ,” and therefore, enters into the mount of the Transfiguration with Peter, James and John.

The Takeaway: The mystical life in ordinary life. The giving of self in ordinary secular life is an experience with the consciousness/mysticism of Christ. Escriva wrote: “By our complete dedication, within our limitations and with the humiliation of our interior failures, we return to God each day, as one returns to the main road after a detour. I have often told you that I am always play the role of the prodigal son. This is the moment for contrition, for love, for the fusion of the creature, who is nothing, with his God and his love, who is everything.
“My children, I am not talking about extraordinary things. These are , they must be, ordinary happenings in our soul. You should lead your brothers along this path to the madness of love that teaches us how to suffer and how to live, because God has given us the gift of Wisdom. Then, what serenity, what peace is ours.!
“Asceticism? Mysticism? What’s the difference? What do names matter? It is God’s gift. When you make an effort to meditate, God will not deny you his gifts. The Holy Spirit will give them to you. My children, have faith, and deeds of faith! For this is already contemplation and union. And this is the life of my children in the midst of the concerns of this world, even though they might not be aware of it. It is a way of praying and living that does not separate us from earthly realities, but that leads us to God in the midst of them. And by bringing earthly realities to God, we creatures divinize the world.”[1]

[1] St. Josemaria Escriva, Meditation, November 26, 1967.

[1] Robert Barron, “The Priority of Christ, Toward a Postliberal Catholicism”  Brazos Press (2007) 134-135.

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