This Saturday, August 6, is the Feast of the Transfiguration. This might be confusing to those of you who remember that we also talked about the Transfiguration back in February. The gospel reading for the last Sunday of the season of Epiphany is always one of the stories of the Transfiguration in Matthew, Mark, or Luke. But we also celebrate this amazing event every year on August 6. It is such a remarkable story that perhaps it’s good that we have two invitations every year to reflect on it!
You likely remember the outline of the story: Jesus takes Peter, James, and John to the top of a mountain to pray, and when they arrive, everything shifts. Jesus’ appearance changes and his clothes become brilliantly white ― a sign of the glory of God. Two figures appear as well, Moses and Elijah, deep in conversation with Jesus. A cloud descends upon them all, and a voice booms, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” And then, just as suddenly as everything changed, everything goes back to normal.
Peter’s response to these stunning events is to want to prolong them, at least until God’s thundering voice terrifies him! He tells Jesus that he and the other disciples can build some shelters to protect Jesus and Moses and Elijah. It is such a human response to an amazing experience, to want to keep it going as long as possible. But no matter how hard we try, so many events in our lives, from the most wonderful to the most horrific, are time-limited. As a former rector of mine was fond of saying, “The Bible said ‘it came to pass,’ not ‘it came to stay!’”
This reminder of the impermanence of life may be useful to meditate on this month, as we enjoy many end-of-summer experiences. We want to hold on to the juiciness of perfectly-ripe fruit, the vibrancy of an August sunset, the exhilaration of a swim in the ocean, the cooling shade of the trees in full leaf, the slow pace of a summer weekend. But although they all “come to pass,” none of them come to stay. And soon enough we’ll have the brilliance of autumn leaves and the refreshing briskness of sweater weather to revel in.
So I invite you to enjoy the little and big experiences of summer right now, and not worry about holding on to them. May you trust that more enjoyable events will come your way in their good time!