On August 6, the Church observes the Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The Gospels of Matthew (17:1-9), Mark (9:2-8), and Luke (9:28-36) describe how Jesus and his disciples went up a mountain to pray. While praying, the disciples saw a vision of Jesus talking with Moses and Elijah. A cloud overshadowed them, and even though they couldn’t see clearly, they began to hear the voice of God saying, “This is my Son, my chosen. Listen to him.” The Transfiguration reminds us of how prayer can penetrate clouds of uncertainty, fear, or confusion.
A few weeks ago, I quoted from the anonymous 14th century book, The Cloud of Unknowing. The author counsels that sometimes our effort to know and understand everything can actually be a stumbling block to a deeper knowledge of God. Instead, the author suggests that prayer sometimes should involve simply listening. Such prayer is not complicated. It involves sitting with God, being available for God, trying to un-clutter the mind so that we’re not constantly thinking and talking to God. Instead, it becomes a time for listening, being, and breathing.
We may think that the presence of God is unattainable or too far off, but the author of The Cloud suggests heaven may be closer than we think. The author writes, “Spiritually, heaven is as near down as up, up as down, behind as before, before as behind, on this side as on that! So that whoever really wanted to be in heaven, he is there and then in heaven spiritually. For we run the high way (and the quickest) to heaven on our desires, and not on our two feet” (Chapter 60).
In the Transfiguration, clouds at first seem to obscure the disciples’ vision of God. They are confused and afraid. But then, God’s voice is heard. Even though we may sometimes feel overshadowed by clouds or trapped in a fog, prayer can help us see shapes in the clouds and hear the word God intends for us. The desire for God is the beginning, and prayer gets us to that place in which the clouds begin to disperse, we know ourselves to be God’s beloved, and we slowly perceive how to move forward. Led by Christ’s example, we can allow our prayers to be used by God to transfigure us and to fill us with a new sense of God’s love and mission.