“O God, who on the holy mount revealed to chosen witnesses your well-beloved Son, wonderfully transfigured, in raiment white and glistening: Mercifully grant that we, being delivered from the disquietude of this world, may by Faith behold the King in his beauty; who with you, O Father, and you, O Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”Collect for the Feast of the Lord’s Transfiguration
The liturgy for the Feast of the Transfiguration invites us through the collect to focus our attention on the dazzling light of our Savior, just as He invited Peter, James, and John to join him on top of a high mountain to pray and was gloriously transfigured before them.
The collect uses an interesting word to describe our disposition as we gaze upon the Lord in Faith:
“Mercifully grant that we, being delivered from the disquietude of this world, may by Faith behold the King in his beauty.”
Disquietude is not a word we hear every day. It refers to a state of anxiety or uneasiness. Understood this way, we pray for eyes of Faith to behold the Transfigured Christ, in light eternal, to transport us from the anxieties and trials of our daily lives, the darkness of our temporal world.
I think our tendency as well-intentioned people is to worry about many things. This is true even if we do not consider ourselves anxious people.
We have many good, God-given desires, which rightfully bring us joy or concern depending on whether or not the things or people we value are in a good or bad state. In all things, we are to submit to Jesus’ command, “do not be anxious.”
We all have those “things” which tend to occupy our thoughts. I tend to think about work – considering all the tasks I need to do, when I need to do them, and how I’m going to do them. For others it might be a to-do list; it might be finances; it might be a friend or family member in your care or in need of care; it might be politics or current events. But we all have that “thing” in the back of our minds that even when we least expect it, the thought creeps in to say, “Hey, remember me?”
I was out to dinner with my wife recently, and I realized (not for the first time) that restaurants have too many televisions. You can sit facing any given direction and have no fewer than two or three television shows playing in front of you.
You can have SportsCenter on one screen, and on another screen two guys knocking each other senseless in a UFC match, and on another screen a championship hockey game. The result is any array of bright, flashing lights and sounds that no sane person could possibly ignore!
Meanwhile, the people sitting behind you are two sheets to the wind and arguing loudly about things you really don’t care to hear about. While you want to eat a meal and focus your attention on your lovely spouse, you have to endure a barrage of flashing colors and intrusive noises in an endless competition for your attention.
Is that not our relationship with the Lord? Is not the call of the Christian life to simply behold the face of Jesus Christ and to obey His commands? As the voice of our Heavenly Father says on the mountaintop: “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him” (Luke 9:35)!
Yet the call to simple trust and obedience to Jesus becomes much more challenging the more we allow the disquietude of life to invade our thoughts – hence the collect for the Transfiguration. The anxieties of our lives will always want to swarm us like flies; only by prayerfully persisting in our efforts to seek the face of Christ – like “a lamp shining in a dark place,” as 2 Peter says – will the morning star rise in our hearts and deliver us from those things which distract us from loving God more.
Peter’s reaction on the mountaintop perfectly embodies the effect of this divine light on our lives. On top of the mountain, Jesus began to pray, “and as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white” (Luke 9:29). Then two men appeared, Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus and discussing what he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem – they were talking about his death, resurrection, and ascension.
Peter, a devout Jew, would have understood all of the intricacies and layers of what was happening before him. Moses, the one from whom they received the Old Testament law, and Elijah, the greatest of the prophets, were speaking with Jesus, who by his divinity brought them back not as ghosts, but literally brought them back in glory from Sheol, the abode of the dead. The time of the Messiah had come.
Peter knew he was face to face with the Lord. He was in ecstasy. What else could he mutter, then, but “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah” (Luke 9:33).
Peter did not know what he was saying, but his desire was true. He knew beyond a doubt that he beheld the Majestic Glory of God, and nothing else could compete with that. As the author of 2 Peter tells us, “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Peter 1:16).
Even at that moment, Jesus had his face set toward Jerusalem, which was why he chose to reveal his divine glory to the three Apostles up on the mountain. Without his morning star shining in their hearts, they would have never been able to endure the darkest night of his Passion and death on the cross.
Beloved, we will endure many dark nights on this side of the vale of tears. There will be many assaults of the darkness, but Jesus is the light which shines in the darkness, and the darkness shall not overcome it. By faith we can be filled with his divine light if we travel to the top of the mountain with him in prayer. It is only with this light of Christ’s truth, beauty, and love, that we can be delivered from the disquietude of life.
It was Saint Augustine who said in a homily on the Transfiguration, “what this sun is to the eyes of the flesh, that is [Christ] to the eyes of the heart” (Sermons 78, 2: PL 38, 490).
May God grant us eyes of faith to help us see past the distractions of life, for our hearts to behold the glory of Christ Jesus in His Kingdom.
The Rev. Nathan Stomberg
The Reverend Nathan Stomberg is the Rector of Holy Communion Anglican Church. He has a BS in Biomedical Engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, works as a project manager, and is a loving husband and an avid distance runner.
Image: The Transfiguration, Raphael, detail. 1516-20.