Christ Lutheran Church
February 5, 2017
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras
You are the most handsome of the sons of men; grace is poured upon your lips. (Psalm 45:2 / Gradual for Transfiguration)
Dear Christians, this brief verse from Psalm 45 is a prophecy of the Lord’s transfiguration. A prediction of that singular event that took place on a very high mountain; when our Lord’s true glory was revealed for a time, so that his face shone like the sun, and his garments became bright as light.
It is part of the love song that we the spotless Bride, sing to Christ our immaculate Groom. To him who is the Savior of his Body the church. But unlike the treacle love songs of the culture, this one is not the product cheap emotion: or worse yet the mass hysteria that oozes out of every pour of society today. But one borne of holy inspiration for, you see, our Lord Jesus Christ is, in the eyes of his heavenly Father, and of his beloved Bride, “the most handsome of the sons of men!” Different not only in degree from all others, but also in kind: because his mother is the Virgin, and his Father is God! This is the reason that Jesus shines like the sun.
Did you ever try to stare at the sun?
That’s what it was like for the disciples on the holy mountain that day! For a brief moment, the Lord’s divinity shone through his humanity and the disciples got an unforgettable glimpse of who Jesus really is. One so terrifying that, without any signal or instruction, they assumed the most perfect posture of Christian worship: face to the ground, sucking the dust from which we are made and to which we shall all return! The same posture we must assume, at least symbolically, when we come to the holy mountain of God each Sunday. For the church, symbolized by its steeple, is a mountain that towers high above all that surrounds it!
The church is Mount Sinai where we hear the Divine Law (Torah / Instruction), written in stone, that instructs us in the ways of God and the way of Life. But that also accuses us because we are unable wrap our minds around it, to say nothing of our hearts.
The church is also Mt. Calvary where we behold Jesus the Word of God, not in stone now, but in flesh! as he banishes the dark misdeeds of our sins; and fill the world with the redeeming light of his cross. And so take heart, and be strong, O men of sorrow, because the Beautiful Savior, “in whom there is no darkness at all,” has vanquish sin and sadness.
But there is another Mountain we ascend each Sunday: the Mount of Transfiguration where St. Matthew reports that the Lord’s face shone like the Sun! But what could be the rationale behind this singular event? Only this, dear Christians, so that all humanity should know not only what he is: this dark world’s only true light. But also who he is: very God of very God, now contained, enclosed, encapsulated and otherwise fully participating in, and exalting, our poor humanity.
But this theological truth was a great scandal to the Radical Reformer John Calvin, the father of today’s Reformed and Presbyterian churches, who did not believe that our Lord “was made man.” Because in his small world, “the finite is incapable of containing the infinite.” But he was wrong. And so is everyone who thinks that This Man is anything less than the eternal “Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing.”
In the Old Testament God consented to take up residence in the temple so that he might be ever with his people; to fulfill their every need, and to satisfy the desire of every living thing. But the temple was not merely a symbol of God, or a reminder of his presence, but God factually inhabited it, was Really Present, and contained in it! And anyone who sought his love, or desired his blessing, had to go to the temple! For that is where God resided; and the place from which he dispensed his tender mercies … even as he does from the Christian altar today.
Many years later, when the Holy Spirit “overshadowed” the Blessed Virgin Mary at the Annunciation, the residence of God changed: from the temple, to the womb of the Blessed Virgin. And in him, that is, in Mary’s Son, “the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily.” (Col. 2:9). This is the reason that Jesus’ face shone with “unborrowed light.” Because he is, as we sing in the hymn, “God, in man, made manifest.” Not only then, but also now. Because every Sunday another transfiguration takes place: as the Holy Bread, and Holy Cup offered for the Eucharist are transfigured into the Flesh and Blood of our crucified, risen, victorious, glorified and reigning Lord!
But if we fail to realize this ... if we fail to recognize and believe what is happening here ... then we are missing the whole story, and are not worthy to partake of this holy communion.
But if we do comprehend what is occurring on this high and holy mountain … even if only weakly … even if only with the faith of a child, all the better: then everything changes! Then we are not just “going to church,” but ascending the Holy Mountain. Not just filling a pew, but becoming eyewitnesses along with Sts. Peter, James and John to the surpassing glory of God in Christ. A glory that, by the kindness of God our Savior (Titus 3:4), we are permitted not only to view. But to approach! To fall on our faces before it! And to eat and drink of it! so that it will eradicate all of our sin, and counter our every sorrow. So that it will permeate us with a glory yet to be revealed; and transfigure us from darkness to light, and from orphans to the beloved sons of God.
This is why we elevate the Body and Blood, and why we reverently genuflect before it. Because our Lord encapsulates himself! the entire gospel of God! every blessing of time and eternity! and more than we can ask, or even imagine … into this bread, and this cup! It is also why we ascend this Holy Mountain with reverence! With psalms and hymns, and spiritual songs. And not with small talk, sports drinks, cell phones or in our Saturday worst, instead of our Sunday best. And it is supremely why, in the words of the St. John Chrysostom Liturgy, we “lay aside all earthly care.”
Because in the Eucharist we commune with, “the most handsome of the sons of men” who pours grace upon our lips, and thereby transfigures us, so that “our lowly bodies will be fashioned like unto his glorious body.” (Phil. 3:21) Come to the Mountain! Amen.