The Feast of the Transfiguration

A well known short story dating from 1916 is Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis. In it, the protagonist, Gregor Samsa, wakes up one morning and finds that during the night he has been somehow transformed into a cockroach. This story became one of the defining pieces of the Twentieth Century, a period whose first half witnessed such unparalleled savagery and oppression. We can go into all sorts of reasons why Kafka would respond to life in such a manner---he suffered a great deal personally not to mention witnessing the great meltdown of civilization at World War I. Deep down, however, I think he also voices the fear that many of us have. In our heart of hearts, we may all very well dread the threat of oblivion symbolized by the cockroach. For about the past two weeks or so, many of our daily mass readings have come from Exodus in which we have heard the stories of revelation, covenant, idolatry and repentance. It is a story of a wandering people’s transformation from the pride of self-sufficiency to their humble dependence on God. Through the many ordeals, they come to see themselves as a people whose ordeals have transformed them into God’s choice possession. Today we come to the feast of the Transfiguration, a feast which celebrates a holy transformation as well. We often identify with Peter, James and John in the wonderment which they express on that mountain. Needless to say, it would be a pretty spectacular event to witness. ut what are they wondering at? Luke’s rendition of the Transfiguration stresses not so much what happens to Christ in as much as it shows Peter, James, and John what will happen to them. Peter, in his stupor, may fumble through a statement, but he also gets it. He realizes what exactly is going on and is awestruck at the new reality of what following Christ would ultimately entail: Christ’s transfiguration is Peter’s own. Is our own. It is our own, and it has immediacy within its eschatological promise. We Christians by following the pillar of fire and cloud of Christ are undergoing a transformation. It is a transformation that can reply to the Gregor Samsa dwelling deep within us. It shows us how love can and will redeem all and save all. Even the cockroach need not fear. As with Christ, our lives also have their crosses and dark moments. Ultimately, however, all these crosses lead to glory. This glory is the goal and promise Christ holds out to us all, and it is the reason we are gathered around the Eucharistic table. Michael Patella, OSB
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