When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, the skin of his face was shining, and they were afraid to come near him. But Moses called to them - Exodus 34
...Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. - Luke 9
Dear friends -
No doubt about it; the Bible is filled with stories that are simply supernatural.
Does the presence of such stories fill us with wonder and sense of mystery? Or do such stories just make us roll our eyes and say, "Oh, for crying out loud..."?
Maybe, just maybe, if I had been one of Jesus' disciples way back then (as opposed to now), and had been among the favored invited to climb the mountain with him, I might have witnessed this transfiguration, this glowing soul in front of me, clothed in the purest white of God's blessing.
But I wasn't, and so I didn't see it. So the image is, if not unbelievable, at least hard to imagine.
The closest I've come to seeing such a thing is when I have been on retreat at the monastery in Massachusetts that I (too seldom) visit. The brothers in that cloister, when they gather to pray and chant, sometimes seem to glow with a light that defies description. They don't always do so; sometimes, they, like all of us, are likely there because they are supposed to be. But when the spirit moves - or maybe it's the gentle, low light of the sanctuary, their souls seem to shine independent of their everyday flesh and blood.
I'd be willing to wager that all of us have seen someone glow. Perhaps it was with happiness. Maybe it was with love, like a madly-in-love couple at the marriage altar. Or maybe it was with aconfident sense of purpose, as they engaged in a task or diversion that simply made them come alive in ways that probably surprise even them.
W. B Yeats wrote a poem, "Prayer for My Daughter". One verse says,
Considering that, all hatred driven hence,
The soul recovers radical innocence
And learns at last that it is self-delighting,
And that its own sweet will is Heaven’s will;
She can, though every face should scowl
And every windy quarter howl
Or every bellows burst, be happy still.
Could something like this sentiment have a hand in making us glow? It seems that so many of us - myself surely included - spend a lot of life with a cloak over our glow. It might be a cloak of shame or anger; of crushing disappointment or broken dreams. That soul of which Yeats speaks wishes urgently to glow both within and for the Creation in which our bodies live, but something hides it. Yeats calls it "hatred" that causes us to lose our "radical innocence". Hatred may not be the best word for our own experience; we all have some wound or obsession that shades and mutes the glow of the soul.
The disciples saw the bright shimmering of Jesus' uncluttered soul. It was breathtaking. And they wanted to bask in it for all time. Don't we all, even if "every face should scowl and every windy quarter howl"?
How bright are we willing to glow? What are we willing, ready, or able to let go of that mutes that glow? Wouldn't we love to show to our beloved and broken world the very source of that brightness? Wouldn't we love to be free of the clutter that obscures the shining of our souls? In our dreams, we say, "Of course we would!"
"Oh, but I just can't..." we mumble.
"Oh, but your sweet soul can," says God "That's exactly what Creation needs to come to full life."
So we keep practicing at it. We do so in our prayers, in our most private longings. And we practice it together. We call it worship, and we do that every Sunday morning - as in tomorrow. At 10 AM. We encourage each other when we do so, and our uncluttered souls shine brightly when we do so.
Join us. We need your light. The soul's "own sweet will is Heaven's will."
PS The painting below is of the first Last Supper. Since it wasn't actually the last one, we call it the Lord's Supper, or Holy Communion, or the Eucharist. We will celebrate this tomorrow. Talk about glowing...