In a different light
Good lighting enables a stage play to succeed. A badly-lit stage will quickly lose its audiences attention. If we want the play to be entertaining then lighting is critical.
At the Transfiguration God put on a ‘command performance’ for the benefit of Peter, James and John.
First, God had to grab their attention. They were ‘heavy with sleep’: whilst Jesus prayed, the Apostles fell asleep. His answer was to ‘turn up the spotlights’: Jesus’ face shone, his clothes became brilliant! Like the theatre lights-down/curtain-up’ says, ‘Be quiet!’
So the curtain between time and eternity was drawn aside and everything looked different. Jesus had been ‘in the dark’; they woke to find him transformed by Heavenly Light.
Next the supporting cast, Moses and Elijah, came onstage; then the Cloud (the sign of God’s Presence) descended and an overpowering voice said ‘This is my Son!’ Sound-effects had arrived. ‘They were overcome with fear.’ ‘Stand up, don’t be afraid,’ said Jesus – and they saw only him.
Years later, Peter wrote ‘we have seen his majesty for ourselves…we heard God proclaim: This is my Son, the Beloved; he enjoys my favour’; and St John had this in mind when he said, ‘We beheld his glory, full of grace and truth.’
Such experiences are called ‘enlightenment’: We come to see things ‘in a different light!
Enlightenment needs light. Seeing something with our eyes or in our minds is only possible when light shines on it – though remember that light doesn’t makes thing exist any more than darkness makes them nonexistent. A chair in a pitch-dark room exists, even if it’s invisible. Remember, too, that in any conflict between light and dark, the light always wins in the end. As St John wrote, ‘The Light [Jesus] shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.’
Our vision of Jesus depends on whether we walk ‘in the light,’ or ‘in the dark’ We simply cannot have an accurate picture of Jesus until he has ‘enlightened’ us. Every solid object reflects light, making it visible; but we as his followers can do more: we act as mirrors of him – however imperfectly. If we walk in his light,’ we reflect it and shine before men so that they may… glorify our heavenly Father!
Bad lighting distorts our view of both Jesus and our fellow men. The brightness and the colour of the light by which we see other people are bound to distort our image of them. We see them (and Jesus!) as our feelings dispose us to, either through clear and rose-tinted, or dim and dismal, Spectacles.
God views things differently. Whereas with our eyes we may see somebody as a dull, tedious something, God sees that person as a someone created in his own image, and for whose sake he sent his Son ‘to reconcile them to himself! So an all-seeing God is able to discern in each of such created images a particular quality which we, by our dim light, have overlooked.
If, by his grace, we start seeing both God and our fellow men ‘in a different light’ we shall discover that we have been mistaken about both; but once we have discarded our coloured prejudice-spectacles we shall see things by the same light which shone upon God Incarnate when he was transfigured on the Holy Mountain.
In other words, we shall have become ‘enlightened’.