Arthur Middleton on Transfiguration
If in prayer you have been listening and have heard what is happening then a language may well have been communicated, which will have come from the One who lives and speaks in you, spontaneously communicating for all to hear, ‘everyone in his own language, the wonderful things God has done’. If this happens, then it will be more than a mere sharing of words and ideas, of dreams and visions, but a sharing of life so that we can say, `It is good Lord for us to be here’.
To pray is to grow into an ever-increasing sharing of life with God, an ever-increasing sharing of the divine life that the Father lives with his Son in the Holy Spirit. Therefore to see the life of prayer as a re-enactment of the Transfiguration is not to project a fantasy. The reality of what the Transfiguration professes is what we experience in prayer over a long gradual process of being transfigured in Christ as we partake of the divine nature. It is to let the very self, the real and true self, be transformed and transfigured in the milieu of divine life God invites us to share. Prayer and life become integrated as we bring the real and total situation of personal and communal life in which we participate into the larger context of the divine milieu, giving it a new meaning.
Radically new experience
There will always be the temptation to return into the security of life’s earlier experience or escape into pseudo-reality. But the implications of the Transfiguration mean taking the total, real and actual circumstances of life as they are being lived and experienced, into the glory that will give meaning to it a] ] . The experience will not be in terms of some other world, but of life as it is renewed and transformed in Christ, made into the knowledge of and communion with God and his Kingdom. It is an experience radically new because it is not of this world; but whose gift and presence, continuity and fulfilment in this world is the Church. So it is not a private experience in the subjectivism of individual religious experience. What one is concerned to describe here is the unique and sui generis experience of the Church, the experience of the Church as new reality, new creation, new life, the Christ-life in which creation and life are renewed and transformed in him.
A long gradual process
Each of us in baptism becomes a seed implanted into this new reality that we might grow to full maturity as a child of God. We are endowed with the power of the Trinitarian life, whereby God’s interior activity in us and our cooperation with him leads us into the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. Such growth is a movement in assimilating love which prayer deepens, as it leads us into a long gradual process of transfiguration in Christ. As prayer and life are integrated, and we begin to respond to the re-integration of our inner being, so we become more sensitive to God’s dynamic presence breathing his life into us.
In the words of St Irenaeus, the two hands of God’, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are continuously touching the soul. This loving presence of God penetrates our whole being, creating, redeeming and transforming us into a greater oneness with Christ. `The Light which is the Life of men’ is experienced as a transfiguring power. In this experience of the fullness of baptism we are moving out from the darkness of self-centredness into the light of God’s presence.
A glimpse of the Father
To say then, `It is good Lord for us to be here’, is to echo what the three friends of Jesus expressed on the mountain of Transfiguration. There is a sense in which we have been climbing a mountain, and the discipline of Christian life and prayer that assists such a climb is never easy. Yet though the climb may at times be arduous, the conviction of that `loving Presence’, that Our Lord is leading, has always been certain. His concern is that he might lead us into following him, that we might imitate him, put him on in the sense of representing him, to follow him that we might worship him and find in him that he is always the Way, the Truth and the Life.