Confession: I took down my Christmas tree today. I know that the appropriate window of time to take down a Christmas tree closed about three weeks ago, but I just couldn’t do it. My husband and I had a wonderful Christmas season, so we decided to leave our Charlie Brown-esque fake tree up through January, which ultimately turned into February 12th.
The trouble I unexpectedly encountered was that Lent started on February 10th. It stealthily crept up on me faster than I anticipated; before I knew it, Transfiguration Sunday had passed and it was time to impose ashes.
Transfiguration Sunday celebrates the story in Matthew 17 (and chapter 9 of Mark and Luke), in which Jesus takes three of his disciples up a mountain and experiences a physical transformation: “his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white” (v. 2). Moses and Elijah appear, and a cloud forms over all of them, from which a voice proclaims, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” (v. 5).
Jesus’ face begins shining, his clothes turn white, and God claims Jesus as His Beloved Son. This story is undoubtedly miraculous, and it’s also not the first time we see these kinds of events take place.
The story of the Transfiguration is meant to call us back to Moses in Exodus 24. In it, Moses takes three of his friends up Mount Sinai, where God meets them; God then calls Moses further up the mountain, where a cloud containing God’s presence settles over the mountain and Moses dwells there (v. 9-18). Ten chapters later, after spending time in God’s presence, Moses descends from Mount Sinai, and his face is shining so brightly that Aaron and others fear him, and he covers his face with a veil (Ex. 34:1-5).
The Transfiguration stories in Exodus and Matthew show us the deep connection between Moses and Jesus; they also demonstrate the fascinating connection between encountering God and having a shiny face. When Moses and Jesus encounter God, they leave the experience glowing. Have you ever felt so loved, so joyful, so connected, so beloved that you felt as though your face actually shined? In the moments after my wedding ceremony, while surrounded by God, my Beloved, and those who love me and who I love the most, I remember feeling the closest to this glowing and shining as I ever had.
When we listen to the quiet voice that whispers to us in prayer, delve into the sacred words of Scripture, give of ourselves to others, meditate on the world around us, worship boldly, or even sing loudly, we encounter the deep and profound love of God. And it can cause us to shine.
Can you think of the last time you shined? A moment in which you felt so close to God, so overwhelmed, so humbled, so celebrated that you felt as though your very face may glow. What led to that moment? What happened afterward? And how can you come to feel that shine again?
Oscar Romero was a Salvadorian Archbishop who was assassinated while celebrating Mass, and he was also known for having a face that seemed to shine. He once said, “When we leave Mass, we ought to go out the way Moses descended Mt. Sinai: with his face shining, with his heart brave and strong to face the world’s difficulties.” So may we find our faces glowing today, strengthened and encouraged by the ever present love and power of God, to go into the world and shine.