The appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. They saw his glory. ~Luke 9:29,32
O what a foretaste of glory divine. –Fannie Crosby, “Blessed Assurance”
In the evening I like to take Little Angel for a walk around Boyle Park. She likes to stop, sniff, and look around. I used to pull on Angel’s leash to make her go faster, and she would dig in her heels and refuse to move. Our walks were a constant tug of war, not very enjoyable for either one of us. The dog won and now I stop when Angel stops, and I look around.
The birds are returning. I do not know their names, but they make a lot of noise around the park loop. Wednesday evening our feathered friends were particularly loud. I looked up into the large cottonwoods to see if there were any new arrivals. My gaze moved beyond the trees to the La Platas to the east. I froze. For once Angel wanted to move on while I stood still. A brilliant light show was taking place over our beloved mountains. The snow-covered peaks and ridges received the light of the setting sun. Fabulous, glorious colors—yellow, orange, pink, and red—unfolded before my eyes. A motion picture of heaven, the promised land. The array of colors blended into a tranquil purple, and the evening glow faded into the shadows of the night.
Have we ever feasted on the alpenglow? Have we seen the glory of light revealed? Have we had a “foretaste of glory divine”? Have we stood in the space between heaven and earth? Has light filled us with awe and wonder?
I find the story of Jesus’ transfiguration fascinating. He goes with Peter, James, and John to a mountaintop to pray. While praying, his appearance changes and his clothes become a “dazzling white.” Peter, James, and John do not understand what is happening, and they fall to the ground with fear. Jesus touches them and says, “Get up and do not be afraid,” (Matthew 17:7).
For a moment imagine standing on the mountain top with Jesus. “Surrounded by your presence, what will my heart do? Will I sing for you Jesus or in awe of you be still? I can only imagine.” For a moment do we get a glimpse of the fullness of Grace, Love, and Beauty? Do we see ourselves reflected in the light? Father Richard Rohr writes, “The transfiguration is available to all, and I believe, offered to all at one time or another.”
I have found this to be true in a spiritual sense.
An important part of my week is going to the Valley Inn on Wednesday mornings. The residents arrive in wheelchairs and walkers. They have gnarled hands, bloated limbs, limited hearing and sight. We sing old hymns, pray, and converse about life, death, and beyond. We shake hands and hug each other. They say, “Pastor, I love you. Thanks for coming.” “No, thank you,” I respond.
See, the most amazing thing happens sometimes. They smile and shine like the evening sun. Brilliant light—yellow, orange, pink, and red—swirls around their being. Glory is present within them and radiating out like the alpenglow. Their transfiguration, I believe. They are the joy of the setting sun which will fade into the shadows, and I glimpse the beauty of the love and grace they reflect. Is this light their true essence and destiny? I believe so.
A few months ago, I walked into my mother’s room to tuck her in at night. I stopped in my tracks. She was reading a magazine and did not know I was standing in her doorway. Mom was beautiful, glowing, and completely at peace. Her transfiguration. I saw this evening glow several times in her last days and weeks. “O what a foretaste of glory divine.” I find great comfort remembering those moments.
I was not physically present for Mom’s last six hours. Those images can haunt me until I remember her evening glow and the transfiguration of Christ. The Light reminds us that God is present with us and within us and nothing can separate us from the love of God, not even death (see Romans 8:38-39). God’s love, grace, and light are present even when we are not present. The La Plata mountains shine in the alpenglow whether we are looking at them or not. I find inner peace knowing that.
“Love is always stronger than death and unto that love we always return,” writes Rohr. May we shine in the afterglow. Amen.
Blessings and peace,