The Transfiguration, Kelly Latimore
This Friday, August 6th, we mark the Feast of the Transfiguration (Luke 9:28-32, Matthew 17:1-13). Luke recounts how Peter, John, and James go with Jesus up a mountain to pray. Jesus is transfigured: his clothes become dazzling white and Moses and Elijah appear, talking with him about his earthly departure in Jerusalem. The disciples (though sleepy) witness the majesty of the moment. Peter wants to stay on the mountain, suggesting that they build three dwellings, one for each of the holy men. But as Peter speaks, a voice comes from above: “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” Then Peter, John, and James are alone with Jesus on the mountain again.
The Transfiguration is often interpreted as a taste of what is to come: the transfigured Christ foreshadows the Risen and Ascended Christ (Holy Women, Holy Men). I think it also speaks to our human desire to build houses for God – our good intention as well as our desire for control.
Glitch Transfiguration, Kelly Latimore (and Elliot)
The iconographer Kelly Latimore posted the above image to his website last month (the original is at the top of this post). “Glitch Transfiguration” was created accidentally with his nephew but it captured something important in the process. He writes,
“Like Peter in Matthew 17, we are often tempted to try and create our own transfigurations. Create our booths. Although we often mean well using grand displays of music, liturgy, and art to bring “The divine down to earth”…what we are trying to contain is always right in front of us. It is divine that Jesus doubled down being human – wounds and all. Peter fails to see that Jesus cannot be confined to one location. He can’t tie down and domesticate the wild spirit of God’s Kingdom. We are being called to follow Jesus to Jerusalem, into the unknown. The light we think we hold has already been reflecting and scattering in all directions…”
I know that I, like Peter, often want to corral or curate experiences of God. It’s laughable, because obviously I can’t…but I still try. “Be here, God! In this sermon!” Or, “Be here, Jesus! In this service project! In this curriculum! Don’t you see how well organized it is? Don’t you see all the preparation I’ve done so that you can be present?” And my desire for God becomes a desire that everything goes according to (my) plan, without a glitch. Look at this nice booth – stay right here in it!
Like I said, laughable. God is always present, everywhere – it has nothing to do with me (or anyone). The desire to make God’s presence known isn’t a bad one: it’s part of living sacramentally, of striving to be outward and visible signs of God’s inward and spiritual grace. (And, when we fail, trying again, because our failure has nothing to do with the reality of God all around us.) It’s a balance, always: between wanting things to go a certain way (often inflected by pride but hopefully guided by prayer and preparation!); of being guided and led by the wisdom of tradition and community; and of the wildness of Holy Spirit, constantly reminding us that God is much, much bigger than we could ever imagine, that Jesus is never tied to a certain time or place, and that the Spirit is thoroughly capable of working in and through our glitches, too.
As we move into August and approach the start of a new program year, here is a prayer to attend our preparation and the holy glitches that will occur:
God, you transfigured Jesus on the holy mountain, revealing your Son to his friends. Mercifully grant us deliverance from the distraction of our own desire, from the disquietude of this world, so that we may behold Christ in his beauty all around us. With your Spirit direct our attention to your works, so that we may seek you, and the knowledge and love of you, in all that we do and are. Amen.
Both icons are by Kelly Latimore. You can see more of his work on his website: https://kellylatimoreicons.com/