Voce mea ad Dominum

Random thoughts from an amateur theologist.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Contemplating resurrection

As they were coming down from the mountain, he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what rising from the dead meant. - Mark 9:9

The Transfiguration of Christ is a big event in the gospels. Jesus goes to a high mountain, traditionally thought to be Mt. Tabor, and before the eyes of St. Peter, St. James, and St. John his glory is revealed to them. Moses and Elijah converse with Christ (a symbol that Christ is the fulfillment of the law and prophets), and a cloud settles over them like in the old testament accounts of the cloud surrounding the tent of meeting or the temple at its dedication (symbolic of God's presence among his people), and the voice of the Father is heard instructing them to listen to the Son. Quite the drama!

Simply put, the Transfiguration reveals that Christ is the fullness of the presence of God. He is the law and the prophets and he has taken on flesh to be united with his people in the most intimate way possible. Of course, the disciples didn't get it. We have St. Peter wanting to set up tents for the three of them. Honestly, you can't really fault them. If put in a similar situation, I doubt any of us would really know what to say.

But I was mostly intrigued with the above statement, that Jesus does not want them to tell anyone what they had seen until after he had risen from the dead. I don't think it is because Jesus wants the disciples to be tight lipped about it because of its sheer incredibleness. I think it is because they would not be able to begin to understand its significance until after the resurrection. It is not about Jesus wanting to keep things hidden, rather it is about Jesus wanting things to be revealed in the proper time.

Another thing. The disciples contemplated what rising from the dead meant. When I first read that I thought, "Wow. What a difference hindsight makes. We know what he was talking about." But after I thought about it for a while, I realized, the only difference between me and the disciples in this passage is where they are in time in relation to the resurrection. The audacity of me to think I understand what it means to rise from the dead because I most certainly don't!

The concept of resurrection was not unfamiliar with the Jews of the time, however, we have the knowledge that it has actually happened with Christ, although how it happens, and what we will be like when it happens remains a mystery. This mystery of the mechanism of the resurrection remained even after Jesus revealed himself to the twelve after he rose as is evidenced in the first letter of St. John, "Beloved, we are God's children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." (1 John 3:2)

So, even in this post-resurrection age, we contemplate what it means to rise from the dead just as the apostles did when they descended from the mountain with Christ after the Transfiguration.

St. Simeon, bishop of Jerusalem and martyr, pray for us.


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