By Deacon Derick Cranston
A gorgeous sunset after a long hard day of work, the first time a young mother looks upon a newborn’s face, or the excitement and anticipation from the hustle and bustle of a big city. We all have those moments of transcendence that stay with us long after the memory of them has faded. Sometimes we wish the marvelous, dreamlike glory of these moments would last forever. But they don’t. We must come back down from the mountaintop, get to work and endure the harsh realities that life can throw at us.
I imagine this is how Peter, John and James must have felt after they witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus and heard the voice of God atop Mount Tabor. They yearned to bask in the magnificent radiance of what they had just seen, but there was still work to do. There was still the road to Jerusalem, the crucifixion on Calvary and, eventually, their own martyrdom to endure before they could behold the glory of God again.
They were not without comfort and consolation when they had to bear these many trials and tribulations, for they had experienced a brief taste of the transcendent beauty that the Kingdom of God would bring to all of Creation. They saw the world in a whole new light following this brief experience of the glory of God on Mount Tabor and walking 50 days with Christ after his resurrection. They could see past the muck and grime of sin and the cruelties that humanity could inflict upon itself. They felt the Holy Spirit working through them, with them and in them to bring about the Kingdom of God. The mustard seed Christ planted on Calvary the day of his crucifixion was beginning to sprout from the stump of Jesse and take root in the world.
The Kingdom of God is slowly beginning to sprout and its buds have spread across the globe to people of every nation, every land, and of every tongue. However, like a fish that cannot see the water it swims in, we cannot perceive the Kingdom because we are immersed in it and only see the bad. We still suffer and can feel ourselves being strangled by the weeds of wickedness that envelope the earth. But the weeds are becoming weaker as the Kingdom shoots forth and spreads its branches.
Saints and mystics sometimes catch a glimpse of it, but even they do not see it clearly. It is a distorted image as seen through a cracked mirror in an unlit room. Nevertheless, they see something of the promise to come. We can, too, if we open our heart to the outpouring of God’s love upon us. We cannot see it as saints and mystics do, but we can discern a vague outline emerging out of the distant horizon of our perception of the world. If we quiet our restless minds and spend time in silent prayer, we can hear faint echoes of the New Jerusalem taking shape.
The spiritual director and priest, Father Thomas Dubay observes, “We come to know God through the traces of Himself that He has left in the splendors of nature: the blazing red sunset, the snow-covered mountain peaks, the graceful flight of a bird, the breathtakingly magnificent complexity of a single living cell. It is a knowledge of the infinite, found in the finite.”
I agree. All we have to do is look for it.
(Deacon Cranston is pastoral associate for St. Mary Parish in Riverside, Holy Trinity Parish in Richmond and St. Joseph Parish in Wellman. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)