Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Time for Meditation

I've been thinking about the story of the Transfiguration lately--due primarily to Sufjan Steven's song "Transfiguration" from his "Seven Swans" record. There's one part of the story that has always intrigued me (come to think of it, the whole story is intriguing--very mysterious). Anyway, it's the part where Jesus tells the three who saw the whole thing that they should keep it to themselves for a while (Matthew and Mark's version). Of course, scholars have rightly concluded that the Transfiguration was a preview of Easter. So, the instruction to keep things under wraps until later makes perfect sense: the three wouldn't have the framework to explain what happened on the Mount until the resurrection. As a matter of fact, Luke has Jesus saying to them after the event, "Let these words sink deep into your ears . . . ," and then he goes on to forecast his passion and resurrection. The combination of "don't tell anyone" and "let these words sink deep into your ears" has profound implications, I think, for those who follow him today in a world of full disclosure ("talk shows" use to be pretty rare; now they're everywhere).

Sometimes I think we're quick to relate an "experience with the Lord." We talk of "the Lord said to me" or "God told me," trying to give words to a mystery too deep for conversation. And, before we know it, our words clutter the event of our interior life to the point where we can't make sense of the mystery anymore. We spoke presumptuously, too soon, as it were, and the voice in the cloud is lost in the sound of our own words.

A few times in my life, I've kept the secret to myself, reticent to speak of what I thought I saw and heard. Then, with time, the mystery comes into focus, the words make sense in light of later events. It's as if I've come down from the mountain of the presence of God, finding meaning in everyday life, common events which turn out to be extraordinary moments of clarity for me. This is a conversation that takes time, this correlation of things heard and things seen. Sometimes I think it's better not to share what we've received--especially when it comes to the mystery of God.

"Let these words sink deep into your ears."