Transfigured and Transformed
Christ’s Transfiguration is also an Epiphany, a making known of the essential divinity of Christ. But it also points to another consideration, the idea of the transformation of our humanity through what is made known and grasped by us. “Be not conformed to the world,” Paul tells us, “but be ye transformed by the renewing of your minds.” This is like Aristotle’s point about being thoughtful and contemplative, “do[ing] all that we can to live in conformity with the highest that is in us” for “the best and most pleasant life is the life of the intellect since the intellect is in the fullest sense the person.”
To live in conformity with the highest that is in us is to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. It means learning to appreciate the traditions of wisdom that are inescapably part of our history and story. Such is the counter to our easy acquiescence to the technocratic culture which so easily overwhelms and invades our souls and which reduces us to algorithms, to thinking like machines.
Paul’s account of his ‘conversion’ reveals the interplay of cultures that belong to the emergence of both Rabbinical Judaism and Christianity. They cannot be understood apart from the Hellenistic world of Greek culture and language and the Roman culture of governance and law. They cannot be thought about without each other. Paul’s ‘conversion’ is really only possible within a Jewish context of questions about the nature of the Messiah and about the vocation of Israel. His ‘conversion’ is not to Christianity since that doesn’t yet exist.
The complex of cultures in their interaction is instructive. As Amin Maalouf argues, we have more than one identity, and, indeed, the more we restrict ourselves to just one identity culturally, linguistically, ethnically, even sexually, the more we cut ourselves off from any kind of common humanity. Diversity becomes all and nothing; unity a nullity. We are endlessly divided and constantly in competition for attention among ourselves in the culture of ‘likes’, ironically unable to connect with one another face to face. Talking to machines but not to one another. Maalouf argues for a more profound sense of our common humanity in and through the realization of our hybrid or multiple identities. Identity politics divides the more exclusive it becomes. It leads to the unending conflict of them versus us. Identity becomes, as he says, one of our false friends. We are thinking about who we are in all of the wrong ways.
The collect for today, the commemoration of Charles I (1600-1649), King of England, Martyr (source):
King of kings and Lord of lords,
whose faithful servant Charles
prayed for his persecutors
and died in the living hope of thine eternal kingdom:
grant us, by thy grace, so to follow his example
that we may love and bless our enemies,
through the intercession of thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,
who liveth and reigneth with thee,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
with the Epistle and Gospel for a Martyr:
The Epistle: 1 St. Peter 4:12-19
The Gospel: St. Matthew 16:24-27
Artwork: Daniel Mytens, King Charles I, 1631. Oil on canvas, National Portrait Gallery, London
When Jesus heard it, he marvelled
Epiphany is the season of marvells, of wonders, the season of signs which teach us something about God and about what God seeks for our humanity. “Be not wise in your own conceits,” Paul advises us because what is wanted is to be wise about God and about the will of God for our humanity. That is always a check on human presumption, being wise in our own conceits, and a check on that equally dangerous and destructive aspect of our fallen humanity, our anger and our desire for revenge. All such things arise from our pride and conceit which deny the wisdom of God wherein alone we find grace and healing and peace. We are to act out of what we learn about divine wisdom and divine power.
This challenges human wisdom and human arrogance and conceit. The lessons of the Epiphany show us what God seeks for our humanity. Not just the healing of our bodily infirmities but the healing of our souls, not rendering “evil for evil” but “overcom[ing] evil with good”. That means acting out of the grace of God’s goodness made manifest in Christ Jesus. In that way there is even the possibility of our becoming a wonder and a marvel not to ourselves but to God.
Today’s Gospel reading presents us with two healings: the healing of the leper from within Israel and the healing of the Centurion’s servant, a healing of someone from outside Israel. Such healings show us the universal aspects of the Epiphany. The things of God are made known for all. God cannot be the possession of simply a few; God is God and so for all. And so he must be made known to all. Such is the necessary missionary impulse of the Christian Faith. We cannot keep God to ourselves and our relationship with God shapes the quality of our relationships with one another. The word gets out as the second miracle clearly shows.
The Epiphany Gospels teach us something about the nature of God through the humanity of Jesus. The healing miracles are just that, things which have to do with divine wisdom and divine power made manifest in Jesus. God who is the author of all life is the God of the healing of all life, sometimes indirectly through human arts and skills, and sometimes directly as in the Gospel miracles. These miracles show us that God seeks our good as found in him. Both the Jewish leper and the Roman Centurion understand that power and goodness in Christ. They both come to him with a desire, the one for himself, the other for his servant.
Tuesday, January 29th
6:00pm ‘Prayers & Praises’ – Haliburton Place
Thursday, January 31st
6:30-7:30pm Sparks – Parish Hall
Friday, February 1st
6:00-7:30pm Pathfinders & Rangers – Parish Hall
Sunday, February 3rd, Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany
8:00am Holy Communion (followed by Men’s Club Breakfast)
10:30am Holy Communion
Sunday, February 10th
Pot-Luck Luncheon and Annual Parish Meeting following the 10:30am service.
The collect for today, the Third Sunday after the Epiphany, from The Book of Common Prayer (Canadian, 1962):
ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, mercifully look upon our infirmities, and in all our dangers and necessities stretch forth thy right hand to help and defend us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Epistle: Romans 12:16b-21
The Gospel: St. Matthew 8:1-13
Artwork: Paolo Veronese, Jesus Healing the Servant of a Centurion, c. 1585. Oil on canvas, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.