Sunday, March 6, 2011

Glorious Shadow (A Reflection on the Sunday of the Transfiguration)

Disclaimer: Though a student of theology, though a student of Christian thought, though at the beginning of deep learning in these fields, I am not a theologian. I am not yet wise in the ways of living faithfully. But I hope in this season of Lent, of preparation and hungry patience, of running with you to the Cross, I can offer some words to reflect on, as we lean forward to Easter.

I do not, in general, know what to do with praise songs. I find their musicality distracting - you have to be so concentrated on hitting the notes right with the guitars, and the drumbeats - and I find that the point soon becomes singing the song well, sounding like that beautiful recording of the song but not like myself.

I feel out of my depth. But this morning, for whatever reason, I found this song.

The David Crowder Band. "Shadow." In the Western liturgical calendar, this is the Sunday of the Transfiguration, where we hear of the glory of God that dazzles the air on Mount Sinai with Moses (Exodus 24), that transfigures the face of Jesus (Matthew 17). This Sunday is about the light of God's glory, how it shatters and illuminates, how it pierces, and triumphs, and reigns.

Have you ever thought about that? That, in the words of David Crowder, "Yet will He bring, dark to light, yet will He bring, day from night." The light is a promise. The light makes visible all things. From this light, the light of the glory of God, we can hide nothing.

We think shadows are safe. We crouch in them, dance in and out of them, imagine that our shadows are like invisibility cloaks. We scrunch our eyes tight shut, play the old game of "If I can't see you, then you can't see me." We clap our hands over our eyes, pretend that all is in darkness.

But the Sunday of the Transfiguration cracks that illusion, doesn't it? This is the Sunday we pray for light. Not for gentle, warm flashlight-under-your-blankets-so-you-can-read-late light. Not the humming glow of nightlights or the flicker of candlelight. We ask and plead and open ourselves to the blinding, transfiguring, transformative light. The light that glares with its whiteness. The light that bursts out and terrifies Peter and James and John. We are told to pray for this light to enter our hearts.

And this light is the light we remember as we enter the shadow of the Cross. And David Crowder sings, "We will not fear. We will remember. When darkness falls on us, we will not fear, we will remember... when all seems lost, when we're pulled and we're tossed, we'll remember the cost, we rest in the shadow of the Cross."

Our brilliant thesis/antithesis, our polemics, our philosophical dilemmas shudder under the weight of this paradox: the shadow of the Cross, the moment of darkness, is the moment of brightest light.

We rest in the light that pours from the shadow of Cross. The moment when all is dark - is the Light of the world. 

"It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun's light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit." Having said this, he breathed his last." (Luke 23.44 - 46). 

This Lent, we begin with the promise of light that blazes through our darkness, but light that comes from the shadow of the Cross. The journey to the light begins now. 

Pray with me:

Last Sunday after the Epiphany
This Proper is always used on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday

O God, who before the passion of thy only-begotten Son
didst reveal his glory upon the holy mount: Grant unto us
that we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may
be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his
likeness from glory to glory; through Jesus Christ
our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy
Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

(taken from the Book of Common Prayer, 1979 edition)


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