Thursday, April 14, 2016

Praying the Transfiguration: Luke 9:28-36

About eight days after he said this, he took Peter, John, and James and went up the mountain to pray. While he was praying his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem. Peter and his companions had been overcome by sleep, but becoming fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As they were about to part from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” But he did not know what he was saying. While he was still speaking, a cloud came and cast a shadow over them, and they became frightened when they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. They fell silent and did not at that time tell anyone what they had seen. [ Luke 9: 28-36, NAB]

Praying scripture engages my very self as it opens into its being-in-the-world of the biblical word. Praying is 'religious,' and as the religious gesture par excellence, when I pray I pray in my flesh the sacred scriptures within the luminous, illuminating Spirit, who enfolds me in the Word. Spirit folds me into the sounds and senses of words and the space that suspends them in the visible and invisible, and directs my gaze in the enfolding, unfolding and refolding motions that rub against the edges of my flesh. I am before the word, alongside the word, within the word.

I pray the Transfiguration by entering Luke's world of a face changed by the light of God's gaze shining through, a raiment so white that white has never known, and a voice that can emanate only from cloud. I gaze upon Jesus praying, and his praying shows in the flesh of his face,  now transformed into a face showing the familiar and the strange, his face and the face of something completely other. What face is this that transforms my gaze into its own? How am I in these words, on these words, who show me only a visage that discovers me, names me, captures me? The face has become 'other' and by encountering me as other it names me, points to me, brings my presence within its gaze where I move into it.

This movement into the gaze prayerfully engages this other. I do not read; I become that which the face sees. This is the face of the face of God seeing me, given to me in ineluctable spectacle that only a prayerful gaze can view. Being seen takes me, seizes me, though I myself move into this gazing concealment, which, remaining concealed, un-conceals, dis-covers me to myself. I am discovered and self-disclosed---I give my self to myself-as-seen.

Behold (ἰδοὺ)! See! Luke gives me two others. The image is a prayer in itself. Moses and Elijah usher the Messiah into time and space as time cancels itself as the ushers come into view. Exodus (ἔξοδον). Exodus is a prayer in itself. I depart into the unheard words of exodus. Luke tells me that the three speak of exodus, of the exodus Jesus will accomplish at Jerusalem. I depart into what Luke tells me.

The cloud goes before me in my exodus. I watch it overshadow Peter, James and John; it envelopes them. I cannot see them bathing in the words of the voice: Sonship. Chosen. Listen to Him. He is mine. The voice gives the Son. I hear the words and the sound is the face made other that sees me. The face is the word made sound. I hear the face and see the voice. They are one and the same. In the one, in the gaze of this other, in the sound of a face and in a face of a voice, I cross a sea of faith to a shore of truth.

Praying the Transfiguration is standing in a dazzling gaze coming at me from an other whose unity of face and voice calls to ask, 'where are you,' and answering hineni.

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